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Blogging Tour

One of my favourite Bristol based poets, Deborah Harvey, asked me to take part in this ‘blogging tour’.  It’s a chain of blog posts by poets on a series of shared questions about their writing. It’s an indoor tour that takes place without muddy boots, teashops or historic sites, unless you’re in the habit of walking with tablet accoutrements.  Here’s a link to Deborah’s blog: The red Dress of Poetry http://deborahharvey.blogspot.co.uk/ where she answers these same questions.

1) What am I working on?
I am currently polishing a final draft for Singing at the Bone Tree: a poetry collection that won the 2013 Indigo Dreams pamphlet competition. I am overjoyed, but it does bring on those pressures for perfection and the sense of being a new girl on the block. It’s due in at the end of this month and will be published on June 4th. The work sprang from a residential women’s ‘writing the wild’ course held at Moniack Mhor, in Scotland last April. It has taken the year to sift and rework with invaluable feedback from sister poets. It is about the journey through alienation, frustration and joy in our search for the wild within and without.

I am also finding pleasure and inspiration from 52: an online poetry writing group run by Jo Bell that provides a weekly prompt for this year and the option of feedback from the several hundred members. I find it is pushing me into new directions and forms.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
A hard question that’s perhaps more for others to judge. However poetry colleagues recently commented on a certain grittiness and humour I seem to bring, as well as a lack of sentimentality. I have my favourite topics of course: nature being top of the list. The view from my home of a small coombe and the Levels, with the Mendips on the horizon is a daily blessing; not least because of the changing light and the wildlife living on my doorstep. I am also a visual artist so I tend to paint pictures that seem to ring true for others. Death and aging are also easy sources of inspiration for me.

I also write non-fiction and have published self-help books. I have a regular monthly column in the weird and wonderful free journal here in Glastonbury. My other hat as a psychotherapist is perhaps what gives me depth and understanding of the human journey and an ability to deal with darker issues.

Much as I try, I am resistant to writing in traditional poetic forms and verse. Whilst I suspect it would provide a firm platform for me to fly from, I continue to fall back on free verse with subtler half rhymes and rhythms. I do however strive for cohesion of form. I prefer short and succinct rather than lengthy and epic.

bright autumn

 3) Why do I write what I do?
I write to communicate, as an expression of passion and creativity. My non-fiction is to help others understand and accept themselves and I always strive to show a balanced view. This work comes easily to me; I always seem to have something to say. With poetry, I used to wait for inspiration, and respond to life events. Now I find that prompts and workshops oil the wheels and prevent me from sticking to old familiar grooves. Listening to other poets read and the small writing group I am in, I find very supportive. In recent years networking and mixing with increasing numbers of poets has given me a joyful sense of community.

 4) How does your writing process work?
I work best first thing in the morning in bed with the cats, after breakfast. I can spend a whole morning this way.
These days I write straight onto the laptop, my handwriting being awful. I need to see words clean on the page, unmarred by endless crossing out. jasper distracting my writingThe laptop is then returned to the desk for frequent forays of reworking. I can spend whole days sifting through old poems. I can never write a finished piece straight off, they have to go through weeks and months, before making the journey from description to evocation. I do not naturally communicate slantwise and tend to be direct and descriptive. I then have to keep chipping away to arrive at a more evocative final form. Prose is much quicker and deadlines help.

Walking in the landscape is a great gestator, when thoughts and words drift in and out at their own pace. I have noticed an annual pattern of activity and rest. I will write like crazy often in the winter and by end of spring need a break so turn to sifting what I’ve produced.

I now have to find three other writers to answer the same questions.  I’ll post the link to their blogs as they agree to do it – although if anyone reading this wants to join in, just post a link to your blog in the comments below. 

Posted in Articles

Pendeen

zennor head

Today I walk a narrow path
granite jigsaw walls me in
placed by practiced hands.

Deep in thought and snout,
a furrowing sow
but she too is boxed in.

Ruled by a raucous wind
only crow and gull
relish its roller-coaster ride.

In the shop an elderly lady
utters with contempt,
Global warming pah!

I suggest climate change a more apt
description, but she has already
closed the door behind her.

Posted in Poetry

The Rejection Dance

In the wake of Valentine’s Day, it seemed useful to explore some of the shadow side of our eternal need for love. Not everyone gets a pretty card or bunch of flowers, not everyone’s love reaches another’s heart. Rejection is an issue we all experience at some time or other. Nobody likes being rejected, yet we reject ideas, people and things all the time. We often find ourselves attracted to someone who does not return our favour, or we might be on the receiving end of unwanted attraction. It’s hard to say “no” directly and we may resort to excuses, or silent and gradual withdrawal. I remember when younger, how hurt and frustrated I was by those unspoken rejections of friendship. I would then sadly carry on trying to please them and continue getting hurt. I’d obsess and pick at myself for all my weak points that might have been the cause. I believed, naively, that I had to be liked by everyone, concluding I must be wrong or had done something wrong if even only one person rejected me out of a roomful of people.

 

Some of us have lifelong issues of rejection: loss of a parent from divorce, abandonment or death can cause such wounds; as too can neglect or lack of affection. Maybe we had to fill our parent’s emotional needs whilst our own child needs were ignored. Whatever the cause, it can make it hard for us to trust and emotionally needy. We project our fears onto our partner convinced they are planning to leave at the first opportunity. We are on alert for any sign of rejection, real or imagined. Alternatively we may fear being smothered or swamped and avoid intimacy altogether (especially if we were used for our parent’s needs rather than our own).

 

It is ironic how often these two opposites dance together in relationship. The one who is insecure, needing constant re-assurance and the aloof one who fears possession and needs a permanent escape route in order to stay. Of course our fears may be founded and a partner really is planning to leave, or having an affair. They can then blame the other’s jealousy and demands as the cause. It’s a horrible dance especially in its extreme and highly destructive form. It can also drag on a relationship that otherwise works well. This dance can tend to rear its ugly little head in the bedroom; one feels aroused so the other withdraws, one loses interest, so the other gets turned on. Both parties feel the pain and frustration.

 

So what are the answers? Taking responsibility for our own issues and not taking responsibility for each other’s is certainly a sensible step, though not so easy to achieve. Learning not to take their behaviour so personally and stepping back from reaction takes time and self-discipline. I am not responsible for your feelings of rejection, or suffocation and you are not responsible for mine. We need to recognise and understand our own wounds. Finding non-blaming ways of communicating with each other around this is also vital.

 

Something that helped me was realising how I reacted to rejection by closing my heart off to myself. In other words, we internalise rejection. Learning to accept the part of me that I deemed unacceptable, or unlovable, was one of my hardest tasks. A friend lent me an album called ‘A Hundred Thousand Angels’, by a band called Bliss. The song lyrics licked softly at my wounds, named my fears and reminded me to love myself; I soon felt comforted and got over the loss so much quicker.

 

It is usually a younger aspect of ourselves: an inner child, or young person that we banish, because others rejected it. However repelled we may feel by certain parts of our personality, our journey starts with being willing to accept, even when we don’t know how. And acceptance does not mean liking, at least to start with. After a while, with patience, even the neediest part of us can transmute to someone we can learn to appreciate. Nobody else can fill the hole and if we keep at it, it’s amazing how genuine self-acceptance can heal our wounds. Those of us who fear suffocation also need to find the part of us who was so trapped that escape was the only way to meet our needs. We need to befriend those wounded aspects of ourselves, and explore new ways forward with them.

Posted in Articles