I’m a little late for the 2017 roundup, but when have I ever let that stop me?
This is what my 2017 looked like:
The pink is poetry workshops and teaching – a mix of Dove Cottage Young Poets sessions, residentials, workshops at festivals or workshops in schools. The green is for poetry readings. The orange squares at the top of the chart, just about in view in the first couple of months are university teaching sessions. The yellow is for holidays – a running holiday in Benidorm in August and a long weekend at Stanza Poetry Festival in March. Rather confusingly, I’ve also used orange for university courses and CPD stuff as well – I’ve no idea why, but I suspect I just ran out of colours. The blue is for trumpet gigs – primarily with the Soul Survivors.
It looks a little full sitting here now, but I can also see lovely white spaces between all of the colours, and now I can look back from the vantage of 2018 and having handed in my 6000 words and 30 poems which made up my RD2 report for my PhD, I can think fondly of days when I sat in my pyjamas all day with a pile of books spread around me in a circle, spending the whole day reading and writing and thinking.
2017 has definitely been the year when I have struggled and wrestled with my PhD, as if it is some huge and ungainly rock I’ve been trying to move around. It’s only recently it has finally clicked that the PhD is actually more like a container that holds water, and that the container could be lots of different shapes. It just needs to hold water. Or something like that. I have said ‘struggled’ and ‘wrestled’. Behind those two words crouch anxiety, sleeplessness, self-doubt, insecurity, dread. I’m nothing if not dramatic. But also curled up behind those two words are hours of reading, and thinking, and observing and absorbing, and conversations with friends and colleagues that have been stimulating and thought-provoking.
Of course, I’ve been getting on with other stuff apart from the PhD. I co-directed the second Kendal Poetry Festival with my friend Pauline Yarwood. We found out very recently that we’ve got arts council funding to run a third Kendal Poetry Festival, which will take place from 7th-9th September 2018. Watch this space for news about the line up and the tickets! The other two brilliant things that happened this year was the invitation to read at Struga Poetry Festival in F.R.Y.O.Macedonia and the poets I met there – in particular the women I met there. And lastly, and most recently was my book actually winning the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and the lovely weekend I spent with my family and husband in London when I went to collect it.
There have been pretty rubbish parts of 2017 as well. Someone I’m very close to has been badly hurt, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I’ve spent a large part of the year recovering from a running injury which has been frustrating. I spent the first part of the year recovering from a gall bladder operation. But on the whole, while the rest of the world seems to be going slightly mad (Trump, Brexit etc etc) I’ve been ok.
I’m feeling hopeful about 2018. I have some exciting things coming up – in early January I’m off on a writing retreat with some friends. I’m really looking forward to having a whole week to concentrate on writing poems. I’m also looking forward to not having to cook or clean up after myself, and the chance to eat scones every afternoon. I’m running four residential courses next year- details here of one of the courses at the Garsdale Retreat that still has spaces. I’m teaching again as an associate lecturer this term at MMU again, on a different module this time, a Creative Writing module alongside Helen Mort, which I’m really looking forward to.
I don’t really like resolutions, and mine are quite nebulous and hard to measure anyway. I want to start enjoying my PhD more and spend less time worrying about it and feeling anxious. I can’t really measure that, except in how I feel about it. I want to stop feeling guilty about sitting in my pyjamas all day and reading. When I did this last year (in 2017) I felt guilty that I wasn’t ‘really doing’ a PhD. However, all the reading really paid off when it came to the RD2, so in 2018, I’m determined to enjoy sitting around and reading, and not feel bad about it.
I’ve read quite a few roundups from friends who blog and have really enjoyed seeing their take on the last year. Quite a few of the blogging poets have blogged about their successes/failures or rejections/acceptances or moving towards doing this more – two that spring to mind are Katie Hale (you can find her blog here) and Josephine Corcoran. I’ll be following their blogs in 2018 with interest – as this was one of the compulsions that drove me to start blogging as well
I feel strangely out of step with this move, because my instinct, particularly in the last few months has been to step back from sharing my life on here so much. In the last half of this year, I’ve been very irregular with the Sunday Poems. Then again, also in the last month I had a huge spate of blogging activity which was very personal in the form of the 16 Days of Action, so maybe my instinct to pull back a little was more a gathering my resources for the 16 days.
I’d like to thank all of the poets who have allowed me to use their poems on the blog this year, and you, the people who are reading this blog. And thank you to those of you who I’ve met at readings and workshops and courses, who have come up and told me you read the blog, and that you enjoy it.
I’m not sure yet what I want to do with this blog going forward in 2018. I’ve been in this state of flux for a couple of months. It will probably involve in some form or another, PhD musings, brilliant poetry books that I think you should read, and Sunday Poems. I don’t quite know myself how it’s going to pan out, so again, watch this space, and I hope to meet/speak/hang out with you all somewhere in poetryworld in 2018.