Another Sunday rolls round again – and I spent most of this one outdoors. This morning I went for a 12 mile run with some friends. I know for some people the idea of running 12 miles would be a form of torture, but I absolutely love it. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing on a day like today, which was cold, but with blue skies and snow at the top of the mountains in the distance.
I rashly promised the husband I would go for a walk with him in the afternoon so once I got back from my 12 mile run and 300 metres of climbing, we went out for lunch in Broughton and then off we went on our walk – 3 hours later and another 300 metres of climbing and I’m officially knackered.
Last night I had a gig with the Soul Survivors at The Nautical Club on Walney Island. After having a rehearsal where I felt that my playing was not up to standard, I’ve been practising for the last couple of weeks, building up from 20 minutes a day to about 40 minutes a day. And it paid off! I know, having been a music teacher for 13 years, that I shouldn’t be surprised when practising actually works, but there you go. I managed to play my solo bits, and my lip held out right till the end of the night which was a relief.
I decided to have a lazy day yesterday so apart from soundcheck in the afternoon, I spent the whole day in my pyjamas watching TV – a rarity for me, but my week up to this point had been pretty full on. On Monday I attended the first session of a course as part of my PhD personal development in Manchester, and decided to hang around so I could go to the protest march against Trump’s idiotic travel ban. I’ve never been to a protest before, so didn’t really know what to expect. There were thousands of people there, so many in fact, that we couldn’t hear what the speakers were saying. I met poet Clare Shaw and her daughter Niamh, and poet Rachel Davies and her partner Bill. We marched through Manchester, and there was lots of chanting, all very good-natured.
I spent the first half of the week watching a lot of news about Trump, and in the end I had to stop, as I was getting really upset about it all. I did write a Trump poem though – well actually, it’s about Melania Trump and the video of her at the inauguration, when Trump turns round and says something to her, and her face completely changes. We can’t know what Trump said to her, but I think anybody that’s been in a violent relationship might recognise the look on her face, and the video has haunted me. So I wrote a poem about Donald and Melania Trump and abuse and complicity and victim blaming and perspective and identity. I started the poem at the Poetry Business workshop last Saturday, and then finished it off on Monday/Tuesday of last week. It’s going to be in The Morning Star on Thursday, which I’m really pleased about. I don’t usually publish poems so quickly, but I felt like I wanted to get it out there.
I’m still waiting to hear back about my RD1 but having it off my hands and out of my control seems to have uncorked my poetry as I’ve written three other drafts of poems this week as well. These three are much rougher, and might not even be poems to be honest, but I’ve really enjoyed writing them. I keep feeling guilty that I’m not getting on with any ‘work’ and then remembering that writing poems is work now and doing a little dance.
Thursday was university teaching day – a 2 hour seminar on Wordsworth and Coleridge. My students are still lovely – I’m still loving the teaching, and feel like I’m learning loads through teaching. Next week is Victorian poetry, which I’m really looking forward to, as Tennyson is one of my favourite poets.
On Friday I went to the Theatre-By-The-Lake in Keswick to attend the Cumbria Life Cultural Awards. Kendal Poetry Festival had made the shortlist for Festival of the Year and Brewery Poets had been shortlisted for Artistic Collaboration of the Year. The festival’s Young Poet in Residence from 2016, Hannah Hodgson, came as well, as well as the poet Jennifer Copley. I’d been asked to do a five minute reading, so I read a poem in the voice of Furness Abbey, that I wrote for a BBC commission last year, a poem about leaving teaching, and one of my ‘All the Men I Never Married’ poems. Sadly, neither the Festival nor Brewery Poets won their categories, but we had a nice night out, and it was inspiring to see all the amazing artistic work that is going on in Cumbria. The highlight for me was seeing Jess Gillam play – she is an amazing young saxophonist who lives in Ulverston, who got through to the finals of the BBC Young Musician of the Year last year I think. Anyway I saw her play last year and thought she was brilliant – but this year she was really, really good.I didn’t get back home till 1.30am, hence the need for the lie-in on Saturday!
Today’s Sunday Poem is by Maria Taylor from her new HappenStance pamphlet Instructions for Making Me. I’ve always liked Maria’s work, and have been meaning to get a copy of her new pamphlet for a while, but hadn’t got myself organised, so I was chuffed to be able to get one from her in person at the Poetry Business Writing Day last Saturday.
Maria Taylor lives in Leicestershire. Her first full collection Melanchrini was published by Nine Arches Press in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize. A Greek-Cypriot by birth, she has been Reviews Editor for Under the Radar magazine since 2015 and blogs at Commonplace.
If you haven’t bought any HappenStance pamphlets before, head over to the website now. Order Maria’s obviously, but take a potshot on a poet you haven’t heard of. I can promise you, you won’t be disappointed. I’ve never bought a HappenStance pamphlet and regretted it, and this one was no exception.
The pamphlet is full of surprises – surrealism probably isn’t quite the right word, but the world is definitely portrayed at an angle in these poems. There were lots of favourites -I liked Poem In Which I Lick Motherhood which is as good as it sounds and The Horse which unpacks that old cliche and annoying bit of advice of ‘getting back on the horse’ after an upset or disappointment. And Maria is the only poet to my knowledge who has a poem about Daniel Craig and not only does she have a poem about Daniel Craig it is a good poem! There are lots of funny moments in this pamphlet,but as you will see from the poem I’ve chosen, it isn’t all fun.
The Invisible Man is a strange and slightly disturbing poem. Is it only me who finds the whole concept of an invisible friend really creepy? The image of the daughter pushing an invisible man ‘on a swing/under the apple tree’ is a little bit disturbing. Then Maria develops this further – the voice of the poem, admits to knowing the invisible man – to having a relationship of sorts with him. This relationship is not like any normal relationship though – she says ‘I carried him in my book bag’ and ‘He fooled me at kiss-chase’. The darkest part of the poem is in stanza 3, nearly the centre of the poem where she says ‘Now he’s back. He wants my girl.’ The use of the word ‘girl’ and the possessiveness of ‘my’ makes us aware of the vulnerability of the daughter, and also of the power of the invisible man. The description of him continues to develop the sinister feel of him – his arms could wrap around them ‘like twine’ and his ‘long toes’ skim the leaves – definitely an unsavoury character! The use of the word ‘we’ is interesting as well in the last stanza – it highlights and develops the complicity of the mother in the creation and sustaining of the invisible man, or the story of him.
I hope you enjoy the poem – and if you do enjoy it, you can buy Maria’s pamphlet Instructions for Making Me from the Happenstance website here for the mere sum of £5. Thanks to Maria for letting me share this poem here.
The Invisible Man – Maria Taylor
My daughter pushes
the invisible man on a swing
under the apple tree.
I’ve known him for years.
I recognise him by the dust motes.
I asked him out. He stood me up.
I carried him in my book bag.
He fooled me at kiss-chase.
Now he’s back. He wants my girl.
We think of him as very tall,
so thin and stretchy he could wind
his arms around us like twine.
We sing to him as we push
an empty seat back and forth.
His long toes skim the leaves.