Posts Tagged ‘MA Creative Writing University of Lincoln’

 

july-a-082

 

At last I have a bit of free time so my poor neglected blog is being updated.

The most exciting thing that has happened lately is that my poetry is going in the University of Lincoln Archive.

I recorded some of my work on Thursday 3rd of March after Claire Arrand  took me, the poet Paul Sutherland, and Mark, the engaging sound recordist, on an engrossing tour of the https://lincolncathedral.com/education-learning/the-library/ . I even saw some medieval graffiti, and Margaret Thatcher’s Latin/English dictionary. The illuminated manuscripts are incredible. The library is a warren and Claire has got a monumental job!

I am trying to get all my published poetry from 1982 to the present in a Word document so that it will be available on-line as part of the archive but I’ve found that scanning in with an optical reader gets the text but not the formatting – I keep putting it off because it is so time-consuming. It is almost finished but I slink off and do other things instead.. mainly painting.. but I think one or two more sessions will see it done. It is a strange experience to go back in time through my poetry to when I was a young mother with 3 children desperately trying to find the time to write; it is a diary really. Lately the poetry is dealing with illness and dementia instead.

My poem The Scarecrow Christ is being featured this month http://www.secondlightlive.co.uk/ It’s timely with Easter almost here. Is it a religious poem? I am outside the sweet shop looking in and wondering, but I don’t open the door.

The Scarecrow Christ

The fields are flat and brown, it’s hard to think
they’ll ever stand high with corn, flare with rape
again this summer. For now the scarecrows lurch
at crazy angles. They trail old coats and rags.
Polythene bags flap around the suggestions of
their shoulders. And yet the wind lifts
their shoddy clothes and they are touched with
magic; they always seem about to fly.

It’s Sunday and I’ve taken you to Chapel.
Everything is grey and earnest. There’s no
incense here, though  a sense of well-meaning
sifts gently through the air. I don’t think I belong.
It’s Lent and the sermon is all about temptation.
I feel I would not pass those tests. Now I see
distraction in the corner of my eyes; a painting.
When I can, I take a picture on my phone.

It shows me strips of cloth, snarled around
an empty cross, a tenuous fabric
lifting in air currents, tangled with light.
Something. Nothing. Faith, elusive as a sigh.
A scarecrow pinned to a stick.
Leaning forwards, with the wind stirring its tatters.
And always on the point of alteration,
by some sudden unexpected angle of the sun.

btg

The poem was in behind the glass,  the pamphlet I had to create as part of my MA in Creative Writing at Lincoln 2012/13.  Such a good year!  It motivated me to write again and right now I have so many poems in progress. They are kind of germinating so I am leaving them alone! Finally I’ve been short listed for some competitions and the poems will be in anthologies  so that’s also  good news.

Now I have such good intentions for keeping this up to date…

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This marks the end, I hope, of the worst case of writer’s block imaginable. It coincided with lots of family and work problems, and the longer it went on for the worse it became.

I did not stop writing, because I  was commissioned to write and illustrate gardening books. My husband and I have had a plant nursery since 1977, and the books came out of this. Those were happy times, including  lots of travel to exotic places to photograph plants and gardens together.

Then our lovely daughter, Imogen, suggested that I take an MA in Creative Writing.  And  I wondered why, when I  was a writer with every fibre of me,  I wasn’t writing. So I took her advice. And, during the inspirational year of my MA at the University of Lincoln, with great tutors and great fellow students, I somehow gave myself permission to write again.

bandaging hurt_edited-1

 

 Dieffenbachia or Dumb Cane

A bold foliage plant, though biting any part prevents speech –

I ate something I shouldn’t and gagged
on it.  Turned my language to a
stutter and my tongue lay still.
Then my head was bound and blind,
bandaging some hurt so tightly
that it died and tied me in.

So the years have been my clinic.
Somewhere to shut the world up
in a hushed place, where  nurses’ feet
shush on the vinyl. A womb, as quiet as
velour, and me in its dark plush,
paralysed. Until something pushed me

out to this space where my sounds
are new and awkward in my mouth.
And yet my story’s begging to be told.
My tongue – untied – begins to shape it
syllable by syllable. How I’d have
died, had words not called me back.

This grew out of struggling into the local Methodist Chapel with my less than able mother.

I felt very much an outsider, a watcher, and yet I would have loved a numinous moment.

I am not a believer or a disbeliever, I am just moving on through life with a vague Pascallian* (there is probably no such word)  sense that I have nothing to lose by hoping that there is more than this. So, religious thoughts, doubts are always hovering on the edge of sight and seem to creep into my poetry almost without my noticing.

The Scarecrow Christ

 

The fields are flat and brown, it’s hard to think
they’ll ever stand high with corn, flare with rape
again this summer. For now the scarecrows lurch
at crazy angles. They trail old coats and rags.
Polythene bags flap around the suggestions of
their shoulders. And yet the wind lifts
their shoddy clothes and they are touched with
magic; they always seem about to fly.

It’s Sunday and I’ve taken you to Chapel.
Everything is grey and earnest. There’s no
incense here, though  a sense of well-meaning
sifts gently through the air. I don’t think I belong.
It’s Lent and the sermon is all about temptation.
I feel I would not pass those tests. Now I see
distraction in the corner of my eyes; a painting.
When I can, I take a picture on my phone.

It shows me strips of cloth, snarled around
an empty cross, a tenuous fabric
lifting in air currents, tangled with light.
Something. Nothing. Faith, elusive as a sigh.
A scarecrow pinned to a stick.
Leaning forwards, with the wind stirring its tatters.
And always on the point of alteration,
by some sudden unexpected angle of the sun.

Taken from my pamphlet, behind the glass

“Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.” Pascal

 

We are always told to carry the little notebook around in case ideas suddenly arrive, but also so we can act as vampires on our fellows and use overheard fragments.

This was a repeated theme in the MA Creative Writing so here are two examples, one overheard in a hospital waiting room and another written after a conversation during the course, thanks Tina!

Scabs

I’ve got to wait until the scabs drop
off then send them to
Liverpool.

They’re not ready yet.
If I pull them off
they’ll leave a hole.

 

Eavesdropping at the Almeida for Tina

 

I’ve started raiding people’s lives for inspiration;
it’s a shameless way of building up a poem.
You like the way I write my overheards but wish
they could be lighter. The hospital would be dark,

of course, but even in the library the talk was of
a funeral after which ‘she can move on’, which
I doubt. Now I’m eavesdropping at the Almeida,
hoping for some light-hearted piece of chatter,

polished to an anecdote.  It’s my daughter’s birthday.
We’ve come to see James’s Turn of the Screw
and have already upset someone at the bar by
queue jumping by mistake. ‘Perhaps next time

you’ll serve your customers in order’. We run away
with wine in plastic cups and prop them on the balcony.
It takes an age for us to see the steward in the stalls
is telling us to move them in case they fall and we feel

a bit embarrassed. While we wait for the first act
Im talks about her year in France. I used to go to stay
and she’d come to Lille to see me off. ‘Did I ever tell you
how a guy came up to me after you left? He asked me

to go back to his to make a sex film with him? I said
in French I don’t understand because I can’t speak French,
and ‘Mais….’ he said. ‘But…. ‘’ We laugh a lot at this
and I think I’ll write this down for Tina as it’s still a kind of

exploitation, no? The play’s had bad reviews, all the
nuances are gone. But it doesn’t matter; obediently I jump
on cue at every scare. Though I do suspect
the audience should not be laughing quite as much as this.

My MA in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln with Distinction – so happy

Here is a go at the ransom note for the found poetry:

ransom note 2