Tuesday, 31 December 2013

To Boldly Go .....

Not bold enough for the Official TBR Challenge - some of the rules are a wee bit strict for me - I am going to have my own little Unofficial TBR Challenge in 2014.

I've chosen twelve neglected books off my shelves that I've not got round to reading yet. Now that the MA is done I commit to reading these over the next twelve months - and maybe then I'll post some reviews of them here.

I find writing reviews challenging - having to express OPINIONS !!! But I do want to get more confident at it, so this is a bold resolution.

And as for the chosen dozen - perched on my ironing board - here they are (not necessarily in reading order) :

1    How To Be A Woman - Caitlin Moran

2    Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal - Jeanette Winterson

3     East of Eden - John Steinbeck

4     Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel

5     The Golden Gate - Vikram Seth

6     The Secret Scripture - Sebastian Barry

7     The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

8     Reality, Reality - Jackie Kay

9    Waterlog - Roger Deakin

10    Mary Swann - Carol Shields

11    Stepping Stones: Interviews With Seamus Heaney - Dennis O'Driscoll

12    The Invention Of Everything Else - Samantha Hunt

Now I must away to Jools Holland and his Hootenanny - 


Friday, 20 December 2013

Semester's End

Tynemouth Beach at dusk - or was it dawn???

I handed in my dissertation on 2 December so that was the official end of my MA course at the Centre for New Writing. A collection of 21 poems, some new, some not so new.

My library books were due to go back in January, but this week I received an email saying they have to go back today. I can't bear giving library books back - some of them have been on an extended loan, no-one else has wanted them so I've been able to keep on renewing Philip Larkin, Elizabeth Bishop, Kathleen Jamie, Robert Lowell. No matter that I don't look at them that often, I just like them being there. The empty half shelf where they've lodged makes me sad and excited. Now I'll have a place for the pile beside my bed, and room for some new books to gather. Maybe I'll start writing again.

The process makes me think of the TV programme Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners which I've watched (obsessively) for the last couple of months. The people whose houses need clearing/cleaning inevitably have issues to do with grief and loss. The cleaners whose houses are spotless also have issues around grief/loss. Some days I think I fall in the hoarder category, some days I think I'm a cleaner.

Perhaps the library is doing me a favour recalling those books ... it was never going to be easy ... and now that I've lifted Robert Lowell off the shelf I've discovered this poem, which I'd probably not have found if the library hadn't ordered me to return him ...

The Mermaid Children

In my dream, we drove to Folkestone with the children,
miles of ashflakes safe for their small feet;
most coasts are sand, but this had larger prospects,
the sea drained by the out-tide to dust and dunes
blowing to Norway like brown paper bags.
Goodbye, my Ocean, you were never my white wine.
Only parents with children could go to the beach;
we had ours, and it was a brutal lugging,
stopping, teasing them to walk for themselves.
When they rode our shoulders, we sank to our knees;
later we felt no weight and left no footprints. ...
Where did we leave them behind us so small and black,
their transistors, mermaid fins and tails,
our distant children charcoaled on the sky?

Robert Lowell (The Dolphin)

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Lines Underwater

One of my poems - My Father's People - has just been published in this gorgeous anthology about mermaids. The writing in the book is complemented by the most wonderful artwork - I am thrilled to be featured in such an appealing and irresistible collection! I would say that, wouldn't I?! But find a copy and see for yourself - treasures from the deep!

Ieuan Edwards - My Underwater Love

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Gone fishin'

The Fish

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of the water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and vulnerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wall-paper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wall-paper :
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested 
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
––the frightening gills
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly––
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes 
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
––It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admitted his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
––if you could call it a lip––
grim, wet, and weapon-like,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oar-locks on their strings,
the gunnels––until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow !
And I let the fish go.

Elizabeth Bishop
from North and South (1946)

Friday, 17 May 2013

Picture This

I'm excited to be reading some of my poems at the Didsbury Arts Festival this year - this is the publicity photo for the event.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Beltane - again!

Today Boots offered me Double Points for the whole of May - my birthday month -
I might go a bit quiet again now because I'm going to concentrate on Underwater Gardener for a while.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Is this the way to Amaryllis?

Who are you? I hear you whisper.

Apologies for such long absences. Over the last twelve months I've not done one single outdoor swim. And very few indoor ones, come to think of it. Also, precious little writing.
However, I have been putting effort into promoting my back catalogue, finding homes for poems already written. It has been a bit of a wilderness time, but productive, and a few of my poems are now very well placed. I feel quite the Mrs Bennett, with my daughters out there, making their way in the world.

I also know, if I didn't before, that when I'm swimming, my writing benefits and vice versa. This dry period has seemed like a  phase I've needed to go through, so now I feel like I want to be writing more again, and swimming. I hope that means I'll be posting on the blog again. I've continued reading blogs, all the while, but writing is the exercise that begets more writing.........

I've also had some good adventures, been across to Dun Laoghaire twice, soaking up the literature festival last September, and enjoying a number of great poetry events back here in England. Our eldest daughter (real life, not a poem - Happy Birthday Nell !!) is also on an adventure at the moment, teaching English in South Korea, so as you might imagine, that is keeping us right on the edge of our seats .......

All in all, a lively time, even if somewhat quiet here on the western front .......

Why the strange title for this post? Oh, I bought an amaryllis bulb at Xmas and the photo above shows it now. It's so beautiful I have to sing that song (customized words) every time I walk past it. As I seem to have lost my way of late, Amaryllis seems as good a direction to be heading in as any ........