Sunday Poem – Wendy Pratt

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This week has been a bit of a strange week.  When I sat down to write this blog, I had no idea what I was going to say because I couldn’t remember what I’d done all week.  I’m hoping this is just because I’m on holiday, and not because I’m just losing the plot…

For most of the week I’ve been working on my collection.  I sent it to Amy (my editor at Seren) before I went on holiday to Scotland and she emailed me back with some suggestions on the order and a request for me to put back some poems that I’d taken out and to not worry too much about it being too long at the moment.  I’d been frantically counting pages and poems – I think this is a tangible thing that enables me to get a hold on the collection – it is a bit like my preference for stanzas with the same number of lines in – it is a constraint that I can put on myself to get control of something that is not very controllable.  So I’ve done this and sent it back again, knowing there is a lot more work to do still.

The problem is, as my husband pointed out today, I’m not good at little, fiddly jobs.  When we were decorating our house, I liked getting the paint and the huge roller out and painting the walls.  I hated doing the edges because they were time-consuming and boring and I wanted to paint the next wall instead because that had the biggest impact.  Often when I’m washing up, or tidying a room, I won’t finish off – I’ll leave something out or forget to wash a plate.  This must be a highly annoying habit to live with – but I just get bored, and once I’ve done most of the work, I can’t be bothered with finishing off the last little bit.  I also don’t like things that drag on too long – I like to do something, complete it and move on to the next thing

But I can’t be like this with this collection.  I have to keep going, I have to do the fiddly bits which is rearranging the poems and editing and thinking about the order.  The worse thing is, this could go on indefinitely! Putting a collection together and working on poems are both tasks which could be never ending.  There will always be something that could be better.  When I think about the collection in an abstract sense, without reading it, I’m terrified – in the same way I was with the pamphlet but ten times worse, about the poems being pinned down and committed between the covers of a book.  I have to force myself, or talk myself into sitting down and working on it.  Three times now, I’ve typed the whole thing out, poem by poem.  When I do this, I find it really enjoyable.  I love doing it.  I think I’ve got something.  I know I’ve got something.  I can’t wait for it to be out there.  It soothes me, typing the poems out – I can tell they’re good enough.  Some of them are even better than good enough.  The other worse thing of course is that it can’t go on indefinitely because there is a deadline.

I would be interested to hear what anybody else’s experience is of putting the collection together – it seems like this shadowy process in a writers life that people don’t talk about very much – so please feel free to comment below if you would like to share!

Anyway, so apart from my wild mood swings about the collection, I’ve been doing lots of running, and really enjoying it.  On Saturday I took part in a 5k Park Run – you can find more information here about these runs, which take place all over the UK.  I wanted to beat my previous time which I got a couple of weeks ago which was 24.46 and yesterday I managed to get 24.08, assisted by Ian Jones, who paced me all the way round.  Ian helps to run the local running group that I go to, the Walney Wind Cheetahs,  So I was really chuffed yesterday – once I got over feeling like I was going to be sick straight afterwards of course.

And apart from running and obsessing about the collection, I played with South Lakes Brass Ensemble, which is a new brass group that I’ve set up.  Please go and have a look at the blog and say hello – I’ve just started it, but it is not getting too much activity so far – I’m hoping I will have some more content to put up once we’ve started getting out and about a bit more.  We played at a World War 1 commemoration event – do click on the link to find out more.  I also conducted the Barrow Steelworks Band rehearsal as well, standing in for their regular conductor Ian Bird, who was off on his holidays.  I really enjoyed conducting and realised it was the first completely adult rehearsal that I’ve taken.  Ian said the band would enjoy my ‘thinly-veiled sarcasm’ but I didn’t make anybody cry so that is a Good Thing, and does not as a music-teacher friend suggested, mean I’m losing my touch!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Wendy Pratt, who I read with a couple of months ago in Leeds at the Poetry By Heart reading series in the Heart Cafe in Headingley.  Wendy read from her pamphlet ‘Nan Hardwicke Turns into a Hare’.  The title poem to this pamphlet is fantastic – I loved it as soon as I heard it.  I was thinking today about other poems that I’ve read by poets that are alive that I’ve had this instant reaction to – and I thought of two straight away.  I loved these poems as soon as I read them – I can even remember where I read them – I read ‘Fist’ by Hannah Lowe in The Rialto, and was blown away, and ‘The Visitation’ by Maitreyabandhu in Poetry Review and to this short list I’madding ‘Nan Hardwicke Turns into a Hare’.

From the first line Wendy establishes the character of Nan with that colloquial, confiding ‘I will tell you how it was’, so it feels as if the poem is being whispered in the readers ear. I love how the balance of power is explored in this poem – you can see this in the line ‘so I could settle myself like a child within her’ – the hare is the place of safety and Nan is a child – but then later on ‘An odd feeling this,/to hold another’s soul in the mouth like an egg’ so by this line it seems that Nan is in charge again.  Another favourite line is the description of the mind of the hare ‘Her mind/was simple, full of open space and weather’.  I read that and thought, well yes, of course, what else could a hare’s mind be full of?  I would really recommend buying the pamphlet – it is a moving collection of poems exploring loss and transformation.

You can order the pamphlet from Wendy’s publisher Prolebooks or you can find out more information about Wendy Pratt by having a look at her website here

Wendy Pratt was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1978. She now lives just outside Filey. She studied Biomedical Science at Hull University and worked as a Microbiologist at the local NHS hospital for some years. She is recently completed a BA in English Literature with the Open University and is hoping to study towards her MA in creative writing this year.   Her first full size collection, Museum Pieces  is also published by Prolebooks.   Wendy is the poetry correspondent for Northern Soul, where she writes a regular column called ‘Northern Accents’. She is also part of the womentoring project. Wendy was recently invited to read at Bridlington Poetry festival in 2014.  Wendy’s next collection, a pamphlet entitles Lapstrake will be published by Flarestack Poets in 2015.

Hope you enjoy the poem! Please comment below and let me know what you think.

Nan Hardwicke Turns into a Hare – Wendy Pratt
in memory of M

I will tell you how it was.  I slipped
into the hare like a nude foot
into a glorious slipper.  Pushing her bones
to one side to make room for my shape
so I could settle like a child within her.
In the dark I groped for her freedom, gently teasing
it apart across my fingers to web across my palm.
Here is where our seperation ends:
I tensed her legs with my arums, pushed my rhythm
down the stepping-stones of spine.  An odd feeling this,
to hold another’s soul in the mouth like an egg;
the aching jaw around her delicate self.  Her mind
was simple, full of open space and weather.
I warmed myself on her frantic pulse and felt the draw
of gorse and grass, the distant slate line
at the edge of the moor.  The air span diamonds
out of sea fret to catch across my tawny coat
as I began to fold the earth beneath my feet
and fly across the heath, the heather.

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5 responses »

  1. Wendy read at the Puzzle Hall Poets in July, and this was a poem that made the hair on my arms stand up. It’s sensational in the true sense of the word ( too often blurred with ‘sensationalist’). The verbs are beautiful and surprising and accurate. It’s a magical enactment where you truly understand what it might be to ‘fold the earth beneath [your] feet’. It’s not the only reason we’ve invited her back to The Puzzle, but it’s one of the best ones. As is ‘Lapstrake’. Now, there’s a word. What a great choice of Sunday poem!

  2. Hi John – completely agree and glad you’ve invited her back to the Puzzle. I’m really looking forward to reading Lapstrake when it comes out. I have no idea what it means but I’m sure all will become clear!

    • I think it’s from Norse, and I think it’s a boatbuilding word. I think it means the same system as clinker-built…which is with overlapping pieces along the sides. (I used to be the cox of a racing boat…me and Lydia Macpherson both. Small world) But it doesn’t matter. It sounds like what it is. Lovely O.N. hard ‘k’. Keld, syke…all those landscape words in the dales (which were daels, when the Norse were in charge. Same with fjells..stop me now……………………………………………………………………………….

  3. Really like Wendy’s work, Kim. I too saw her at the Puzzle (John’s doing a great job there) and had a good chat with her (we have a mutual friend in Brett Evans who publishes Prolebooks and is also publishing some of my poems in Prole mag. Looking forward to the Prole workshop in Wales early Oct). And, of course, I saw her with you at Heart. I’m so glad you have a penchant for stanzas of equal length! I’m afflicted by this too. I’ve read lots of ‘older’ poets, more formal than now perhaps, and really admire formality done well. So I try to emulate it. My current degree module is form and structure, concentrating on formal styles, and I’m loving it, but I find it hard to get the flow and subtly, that makes formality almost unnoticeable.

  4. Aw, lovely comments, thank you! I had such a lovely time at Puzzle, I can’t wait to come back with Lapstrake next year 🙂
    Yes, Lapstrake is a boat building style favoured by the Vikings. The over lapping planks. I hope you like the pamphlet. Eeek! I’m pleased with it, but will be happier when it’s out there.

    Nan is very special to me, I’m so pleased you enjoyed the poem x

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