After trying to get myself to slow down a little with the Sunday Poems, and take the pressure off a bit, I find myself circling round to them again. The problem is I keep reading too many good poems.
I have had an interesting couple of weeks since I last blogged. I spent a week in St Ives with some friends on a writing retreat at the hotel where I run my residential courses. It was bliss to be there and not be responsible for anyone else’s happiness apart from my own!
I had breakfast each day with my friends at 8.30am. Then I wrote, or more accurately edited poems I’d already started from about 9.30am till 12. Then I went out for a run – I think I only had one non-running day that week. At 2pm the hotel served scones with jam and cream and then I wrote in my room again from about 3.30 till 6pm. I felt like a monk, albeit in a very luxurious room. At 6.30 we always met for dinner, and then shared a poem and gave/received feedback on it.
I realised it’s probably the most time I’ve ever spent alone without sinking into a dramatic melancholia. I also realised it was good for my writing to have this time where I didn’t have to worry about anything or anyone else. This, I told myself, is why Wordsworth had a wife and a sister running around after him – he was basically running his own hotel from home! The luxury of not having to cook, or walk the dogs or do anything except sit in my pyjamas and write. And run of course – miles of coastal path – a bit waterlogged this time of year, so I mainly stuck to the very hilly country roads.
Anyway, back to real life this week, except I think I’ve left half of myself down in St Ives. There is something magical and beautiful about it. I can’t wait to go back in April, when I’ll be running a residential there with Helen Mort. I’ve only ever been down there in January or February, so I’m hoping for some warm weather!
So real life this week consisted of a series of travel disasters on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday I went to Salford to go on a course for my PhD called ‘Writing Critically about Creative Practice’. I wore a different coat because it was raining, so I left my railcard behind. Which meant I had to pay £48 for a new rail ticket. Then the trains were delayed and I was almost late for my course. I’d arranged to stay at my friends Air B & B place in Hebden Bridge overnight, as I had to be back in Manchester the next morning. I got to Manchester Victoria and due to rushing and thinking I was going to miss the Hebden Bridge train, I jumped on the wrong train and didn’t realise until we pulled into Bolton half an hour later. Sigh. I jumped back on the train to Manchester Victoria, eventually arriving in Hebden at about the same time as I would have arrived in Barrow in Furness if I’d just gone home. It was one of those days where I just shouldn’t have got out of bed.
The next day I did my undergraduate teaching at MMU which went fine, and then went out for a meal afterwards with the PhD students. I miss out on a lot of the socialising because I live so far away, but I really wanted to make an effort for this meal. I decided to leave at 8.15pm to get the last but one train back to Barrow. When I got to the station, the train had broken down and I had to wait half an hour for the next one. This meant I missed my connection at Preston to get the last train home, so I was stuck in Preston for an hour and twenty minutes! The lesson here is just stay and have fun and get the last train home, and if anything goes wrong with that, at least the train company has to put you in a taxi!
So a week of mini travel disasters, but I suppose it could have been worse. As my twin sister comfortingly said when I rang to tell her about it: “Well at least you haven’t shit yourself!”. Well yes, there was that.
Leaving half of myself in St Ives has meant I’ve found it really hard to knuckle down and catch up with the various admin chores that a week gallivanting around and writing poetry has left me with. I think I’m just about caught up now but it has been a struggle to make myself sit and do it. I keep floating off and editing poems, or writing poems. It has been a very strange feeling, as usually it is the other way around – I sit down to write a poem and float off to write an email.
Today’s Sunday Poem is by Sue Vickerman, who is one of the members of Brewery Poets, a monthly critiquing group that I go to. Sue’s writings have appeared in The Guardian and the Times Educational supplement and her novel Special Needs is in public libraries. She has been the recipient of three Arts Council awards for her poetry and fiction.
Just before Christmas, Sue had a pamphlet Adventus published by Naked Eye Publishing. Sue sent me a copy of the pamphlet a while ago, but I’ve only recently sat down to read it – such is my tardiness, and the height of my to-read pile. The blurb on the back of the book says that ‘These twenty-five poems are perennials but may serve as daily readings starting from 1st December.
I thought I would share the one for the 2nd of December, called The ends. I think this poem perfectly describes one type of ending of a relationship, an ending that is dragged out, an relationship that when you look back, you realise had many endings. I felt like I was balanced between smiling ruefully or squirming uncomfortably in recognition with the poem.
Each stanza details one type of ending – the first ‘on the way to the therapist’, the second ‘when I got practical’, the third ‘telling our parents at Christmas’, the fourth/fifth/sixth ‘the silences, her resentment, our separate beds’, the seventh ‘I got my own place’ and the eighth ‘she move on with me’ and finally the verbal ‘look, it’s the end, Annabel’.
I love the conversational tone in this poem, as if we are overhearing the speaker telling the story of ‘The ends’ to a friend. It almost feels like we could be the friend, as if we are the ones addressed, the ones taken into the speaker’s confidence. There is a working out here of course as well – the speaker is trying to work out the truth of what happened, what really happened, with the question, with the reasoning out of events, with the use of parenthesis to elaborate. I think the use of the long sentence from the last line of the third stanza really adds to this feeling of a conversation, a train of thought being worked out, and then finally finishing with that lovely half rhyme of Annabel/amicable to finish off.
The ends – Sue Vickerman
The first end happened
on the way to the therapist
when we said in the car
what we were going there to say
But it didn’t end there. Was the end when I got practical –
where should I move to? Since
I couldn’t by myself afford this house’s rental –
but she stalled, seemed not quite ready yet
or was the real end telling our parents at Christmas that
although our gifts were from us both
and the gifts we were receiving were to us both
We were no longer together
though technically still under the same roof,
though still the best of friends although it had ended
(though we didn’t go into details,
the silences, her resentment, our separate beds)
and the new year started but she didn’t move on
so I moved on, I got my own place and
moved on but for god’s sake she moved on with me
because she seemed not quite ready yet
so there we were, separated but rubbing together
in my tiny place, it was uncomfortable and I wanted it to end,
when is it going to end, look it’s the end Annabel,
and by the end it was not amicable.