Evening everybody! I am pleased to report that I am writing this blog post on my brand swanky new laptop! My little netbook finally died last week after five faithful years of service. My PC died about a month ago after about eight years of loyalty. This has happened at a particularly inconvenient time as I have lots of writing ‘projects’ to do at the minute! So this morning, I dragged the hubby and my parents round the shops to look for a laptop.
Part of me thinks this is very extravagant, to just go out and buy a laptop – especially now, when from September I will be down to three days a week as a music teacher, and I could technically share the husband’s laptop – except that I am rubbish at sharing (this comes from being a twin, I think). Basically my idea of sharing is that the husband can use the laptop if I don’t need it. Which doesn’t strictly stick to the definition of sharing at all really, does it?
I would also like to share a secret with you all today. I say ‘you all’ – I have no idea who is reading this apart from my mum and dad. But yesterday I felt like a writer. This was a Big Deal. I’ve never really felt like one before. It happened like this – I emailed Acumen, a lovely poetry magazine which I urge you to have a look at if you are not aware of it already – www.acumen-poetry.co.uk to ask if they would be interested in a review I was writing about Fiona Sampson’s new book ‘Coleshill’. I’ve had one review published by Acumen a couple of issues ago when I reviewed Myra Schneider’s pamphlet “What Women Want” so this wasn’t a completely random request. I have no idea by the way, if this is the usual way of getting reviews published – I thought that the normal thing was to wait to be asked to do a review – but writing, very politely to an editor to ask if they are interested in a review seems to work, because I got a nice email back from Glyn Pursglove, the reviews editor, the next day, to say yes, and if I could get it to him by the end of the month it could go in the next issue.
And it was this simple thing that gave me a little fizz of excitement in my stomach, and made me think ‘I’m a writer’. And then it faded away, but that was enough to make me think ‘screw it I need, no not want, need a laptop.’ So I think I’ve hit upon the answer to saving the economy – which is clearly – give money to wonderful magazines like Acumen, who will then pay poets like me to write reviews, which will then give them a burst of confidence and propel them to the nearest well known computer selling store and buy a shiny new laptop. Economy – solved.
Anyway, I digress, greatly. This week as some of you my twin sister has being doing the Cumbria Coastal Walk with her friend. They are raising money for Animal Concern, and if you did feel moved to send them some money for sponsorship, it is not too late! You will find the info at http://www.animalconcernwest.co.uk/#/201307-charity-walk/4577022400
The plan was to walk 100 miles – from Grange over Sands to Workington. My sister’s friend developed huge and evil-looking blisters that managed to consume half of the sand in the estuary they waded over, and so she was only able to do half days for the last couple of days of the walk, but she then morphed into support car driver for the rest of the walk, so she did not just put her crippled feet up! The sister managed the whole walk – I did bits of it with her – and she had aggressive bullocks, missing paths, flooded paths, barbed wire fences that were not supposed to be there, high tides, jellyfish, diversions, brambles, runaway dogs and general being knackered to contend with, but am very proud to report that she did it all, and mostly without losing her temper!
In my previous post I was so tired because I’d just finished Day 1 – 17 miles. I also did about ten miles of Day 2 which was Ulverston to Barrow. Unfortunately Miles, one of my border terriers, stepped on a jellyfish and started having a very extreme reaction and I had to rush him to the vets so he could have a steroid injection, which was very distressing for him and me! This all happened in 28 degree heat as well so it was just awful. Anyway, it took about an hour and then he eventually calmed down and he was a lot better then – and is now fully recovered from his trauma!
So a lot of the week has been taken up with going back and forth and doing bits of the Cumbria Coastal Way, however on Saturday I went to the Theatre By The Lake in Keswick to meet up with the Alligator Club http://thealligatorclub.co.uk/
I think I’ve mentioned this before but I am working with two playwrights from The Alligator Club, alongside another local Cumbrian writer, Ian Hill, to write a play to be performed at Theatre by the Lake. You can find information about it here – http://www.theatrebythelake.com/production/10963/Cartographers
The meeting went really well, and it’s really exciting to be involved – and it’s also going to be a completely different way of working to what I’m used to. But this can only be a Good Thing.
In fact, I’m hoping to be doing lots of work on it in the next couple of days as on Thursday I’m swanning off to Ireland to the Fermoy Poetry Festival. I’m going to try and blog before then, but there may be a brief hiatus in the Sunday poem whilst I’m away – I don’t know if I will have time to access a computer.
Today’s Sunday Poem is by Judy Brown and is taken from her first collection ‘Loudness’, published by Seren. You can order a copy of Loudness here http://www.serenbooks.com/book/loudness/9781854115478 and you really should – it’s an excellent book. I read it before I met Judy and I enjoyed it, but re reading it again, with the intention of picking a poem for the blog, I enjoyed it even more. I think this is because I can hear Judy’s voice in my head now – I should explain I’m not hearing voices, Judy is Poet in Residence at The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.
I picked this poem because it is about Angels. Now, normally poems about Angels make me groan, because there are so many, and they are normally so predictable. I feel the same way about poems about angels as I do about poems about children. I expect them to be bad. However. This year I have discovered Kathryn Maris’s wonderful poems about children (also a Seren poet) and now, I discover a wonderful, fresh, invigorating look at Angels by Judy. And I like being proved wrong about poetry, and this poem completely took me by surprise.
It is full of a dry humour but also beautifully lyric language; ‘When I turned/my face from flying,’ and ‘You never forget the standing start’.
My other favourite poems in the book were ‘The P45’ which finishes with ‘What else do I remember?/The revolving door twirling./My bent, martyr’s neck.’ I also really liked ‘In Praise of Greek Dogs’ and ‘On the First Night in the Cottage You Said It Was A Mistake for Me to Buy’ and if that title doesn’t make you want to buy the book, you are made of stone! I should say that ‘Loudness’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize. The other thing I should say is that there are some fantastic ‘holiday’ poems in the book too – again, a topic which handled by a lesser poet, can be as bad as being forced to look at someone’s holiday snaps, but Judy’s holiday poems are really, really good.
Here is the poem! I hope you enjoy.
The Ex-Angel – Judy Brown
My ballroom shoulders were ruined
by those wings. Now there’s hardly a scar,
just a sheen on the skin as if the light
falling right there had passed
through frosted glass. As it has.
I imagined them taking their leave
of my back: the exit hole fist-sized;
paramedics; a tussle of sinew and rag.
But it wasn’t like that. When I turned
my face from flying, they shrivelled
like spiderplants freeing their young.
Feathers husked into onion-skin,
flaked, choking the shower.
You’ll miss the sky, more than one
person said. They were wrong.
These days the strength of my body
is held in my legs and I like it that way.
I hung long enough like a doll
from the beating white engines of God.
(That kind of talk does no good.)
You never forget the standing start,
the torque of the upward stroke,
the rowing into the sun. Yet I’d rather
sweat here, down on the dance floor,
tasting the street – if it weren’t for the birds.
When I see a swan, like a last clench of snow
at winter’s end, my eyes drizzle
melted light, my nose starts to drip.
Whatever I’ve done, it’s holy water still.
I dispose of the tissues with due respect.