This has been a strange week – each day I’ve woken up to stories about more of Trump’s executive orders, and this morning, before I went out for my run, I watched videos of the protests at American airports against his ban on refugees/muslims entering the country with tears in my eyes. There was one in particular which showed a woman who had finally been released after being detained, and the crowd cheered as she appeared. There is a protest against Trump tomorrow in Manchester. I’m going to be in Manchester for the afternoon as I’m booked on a training course to do with my PhD so I’ve decided to go along to the protest. I’m kind of ashamed to say it will be my first time at a protest but everybody has to start somewhere, and at the minute it feels like my heart breaks a little bit when I read another news story about the attacks on women and refugees and anybody else Trump disagrees with. The picture of him signing an order about abortion and women’s bodies and funding, surrounded by men, made me feel a bit sick. Friends have said to me that what Trump says doesn’t affect me here, so why am I getting upset about it? It sometimes feels like a difficult thing to explain, but it is actually really clear.
Yesterday I turned on the news and there were three white men discussing Trump and the latest developments. I went to a literary event this week that was high quality and entertaining, but there were three white men again speaking at this event. When they talked about their literary influences they were all men (apart from one woman who was mentioned as opposed to 8-10 men). The literary event, the news and Trump are part of a wider continuum that means that women and people of colour are silenced. Or more accurately, they’re not silenced, they’re not even present to be silenced. Of course, these are small problems compared to being detained at an airport and not allowed in a country, but they are part of a wider scale, and part of the problem. The small injustices sow the ground for the bigger and more serious attacks, and they demonstrate at best a lack of thought by the white men who are given platforms to speak.
So in short, I’m going to the protest to do something instead of just complaining about it on here, and to spend some time with my friends who feel the same way.
I also had a conversation with some of my running buddies (men) who were saying that they thought people were making too much fuss about Trump holding Teresa May’s hand. I went over and grabbed one of their hands while we were walking along and they looked uncomfortable, and I said, now imagine you are in a business meeting – of course it’s creepy and awful and just unprofessional! I don’t know if they agreed with me after my little demonstration.
So apart from Trump, my week has been filled with more running again. I think I’m pretty much back up to full fitness now, although on Tuesday I had a rehearsal with the soul band and was getting a pain in my stomach when I played in the higher register. I’m hoping this is just my muscles being a bit weak and the fact that I haven’t played the trumpet for a while. I’ve decided to do some practice this week – 20 minutes on Wednesday, 30 minutes on Friday and about 40 minutes today. Wednesday was the worst because it sounded awful. Today I really enjoyed practising and could hear the improvement already. However, I don’t have the time to start getting obsessed with the trumpet again, so will have to be careful and limit the time I spend doing it.
Yesterday I went to the Poetry Business Writing Day in Sheffield and really enjoyed myself. I haven’t been to these workshops for so long that I’d forgotten how inspiring they are. There must have been at least 30 people sat around writing poem after poem from Ann and Peter’s prompts. I got to see lots of friends I haven’t seen for ages and I wrote on the train all the way home. I don’t know if any of it is any good though – I haven’t dared to look yet.
After handing in my RD1 last week I went a bit off the boil with the PhD work and decided to give myself a few days off academic reading. However, this has given me time to do some writing which I’ve really enjoyed. I don’t know if any of the poems will be any good, but I’m happy that I’m writing. And as my friend and colleage at MMU Martin Kratz pointed out when I guiltily confessed to writing poems instead of PhDing ‘writing poems is part of the PhD’. Doh, of course it is! How exciting is that. I still can’t get my head around it.
I’ve also been working with one of the Dove Cottage Young Poets Hannah Hodgson, editing some of her poems. I’ve absolutely loved doing this as Hannah is keen, talented and enthusiastic. I’ve even made Hannah her own special folder on my pen drive to keep the stuff we’ve been working on together. There were lots of poets who were kind to me when I was first starting out writing and who encouraged me and gave me advice – if I can do half of what those poets did for me for Hannah then I will be happy.
Today’s Sunday Poem is a bit different to the usual Sunday Poem. It’s by Matt Bryden. I think I met Matt for the first time when he came on a writing retreat that I’d organised with some friends – I think he came along with the poet David Borrott. I’m saying I think because I can only vaguely remember. The Sunday Poem is taken from a project that Matt has been working on called the Poetry Map.
Now before I continue, I should warn you that clicking on the Poetry Map link may cause you to lose a couple of hours as you poke about on the website. There is a lot of content there, and it’s a really fascinating site. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I’ll leave Matt to tell you more about it in his own words below.
About the Poetry Map – Matt Bryden
I first made a prototype of the Poetry Map while at Goldsmiths in 2013. To my amazement, it quickly racked up over 6,000 hits, principally in Canada and China for some reason. This persuaded me that I should develop the idea, but it was not until I was put in touch with web designer Jon Munson II that I could do anything about it. The finished Poetry Map contains 67 poems divided into four themed ‘paths.’ Each poem is located on the map at the place of either its composition or setting. Clicking on a link takes you to the next poem in the sequence.
I’ve long been interested in illustrators of poetry such as Reg Lloyd (who worked on Ted Hughes’s What is the Truth?) and why such partnerships are so rarely successful. I think it is because poems need room to breathe. While compiling the map, usual selection criteria did not apply. When I tried to replace one path with a stronger sequence of poems for example, I found that the more fully-realized, perhaps deeper or ‘better’ poems did not work on the screen at all. They seemed flat and not conducive to skipping through to the next poem. So we returned to Plan A. All of the poems have a strong connection to the place they were composed.
I’m happy to say that this free online resource has already been used by a university in California and a primary school in Taunton (which worries me a little, as its themes are occasionally quite adult). It was designed as an online experience, and I have been able to add nuances that hard copy cannot always provide – audio recordings, links to hand-written drafts, newspaper clippings and even a transliteration into phonemic script –accessed through clicking on a series of ‘magic tickets.’ However, I did not want to distract too much from the poems, so these are not allowed to dominate. Other features such as the Random option replicate what it is like to flick through a book and settle on a poem indiscriminately. I like the idea that someone might stumble upon this map and find themselves drawn into a rabbit hole, whether they are regular readers of poetry or not.
I’ve chosen a poem as the Sunday Poem from Path Four on the website. This sequence of poems is called ‘Singles’. Although the poem I’ve chosen works well on its own, I think reading the other poems on the Path really add to it.
The first couplet is a surprise and delight after the tone set by the word ‘contention’ which made me think that the poem was going to be more formal in its subject matter. I also agree with the argument of this poem as I have soup every day, so yes, the best kinds of people eat soup. I love the description of the Argentininan – it is very well drawn – the ‘delicate hands’ and the ‘fine hair’. I like that we don’t know who Lucie is – is she the Argentinian, or another unseen figure? Each one of the poems in this path has close and detailed observation of people and life going on at its heart. I haven’t read all the poems on all the paths – but I would really recommend putting aside a couple of hours and immersing yourself in the website.
Matt has published two collections. His first pamphlet Night Porter was published by Templar in 2010 after winning the Templar Pamphlet Competition. This was followed by a full collection Boxing the Compass, also published by Templar.
His work is widely published in the UK, while his translations of the work of Taiwanese poet Ami have appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation and (in collaboration with Ingrid Fan) The Desire to Sing after Sunset.
Matt Bryden has an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths College.
It’s My Contention – Matt Bryden
that the best kinds
of people eat soup.
Whether at tables
on the South Bank
from a cardboard cup –
like this slight Argentinian
with delicate hands,
fine hair and a jacket
to lend her figure bulk –
or in a pub, asking
the soup of the day, taking
the time to let it cool,
eating at your own pace.