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Okay, since I’m not allowed to write here until I’ve posted me poems, predictably here I am again. Just to say that tomorrow night I’m off to Orange Street to see an event which promises to be good: poets from the anthology Circled Like a Target, guest poet Juha Virtanen, an open mic. Doors open at 5.30 pm.

Relieved to be going to hear work. Oh, and by the way, our lovely babysitter for the night is one of our favs: T, flute player, Oxford music student and ex-Langton (E’s school) head boy. Must remember to get some food in for them!

Oh and by the way: R in Rome. Had a text which mentioned mosquitoes and a tasty three-course meal. Even more relieved (justfied?!) in going out tomorrow night. 

If you can, come join. Talented folks.




CanterburyPoets in association with

SaveAs writers group

and Conversation Quarterly,

invite you to their second

poetry evening


Sunday September14th, 2008


Doors open at 17.30

and events start at 18.00


Reading new material

and poems from their collection

Circled Like a Target

Vicky Wilson

Frances Knight

Judith Diamond

Lyn White

& friends


the Guest Poet slot




Open Mic



and music from 8.00 – Late



For information on these poetry meetings


Where has the last week gone?! Somewhere unmentionable. Kind of.

However. I would like to be able to write posts with this title all of the time: poetry. Poetry. Poetry.

Not always possible though. Of course.

But when it works, it really works. It does the job. It takes you at once much further into something, and much further away. Everything stops.

Last Wednesday I heard Richard Price read as part of his judging of the T S Eliot Poetry Prize (not that one) run by University of Kent. He was fab. Really fab. All night I didn’t care where I was, who I was, or what I had to do the next day (which, as it happened, was a school assembly for the Laureate programme, trying to get kids to submit work: submit! submit!).

Later, at dinner, all of us talked about lots of things: translation, archiving, playground rhymes and games. We saw a waitress exhibit the most wonderful micro-expression of disdain at us for waving her down.

And I got his book, Lucky Day. It’s got prose poems in it. Good ones. And other poems and sequences. His range of tones and registers throughout the book is impressive and in some odd way heartwarming. I leave the pages feeling like taking risks, like anything is worth a try because you might get something that strikes another thing just right, that makes something. 

Thank you Richard. And everyone. I’m still feeling weighed down, but for a night last week, all was flight. 

After a pretty awful 48 hours, during which I tried and failed not to phone all local birthing centres — after receiving a text that read ‘It’s started!’ — the baby girl has arrived on the scene, daughter of good friend Helena and her husband.

And she is absolutely gorgeous. Wonderful. So precious.

Another question, going on from two days ago: why is new life so very very astonishing?

My father-in-law, a retired GP, says the one thing he never tired of was helping babies into the world, that moment. I find that moving.

What do I remember about those first moments? Relief at E being so healthy, so solid from the beginning, an emergency C-section. Panic the first night when I couldn’t reach him, stretching to rock the crib. Relief at being alive. These feelings co-existed with some wariness until he was six weeks old, when I watched him sleeping at 6 am, his profile there, and thought yes, I am his mother, and I am so thankful.

With M: getting the shakes going into theatre, a planned C-section this time. The midwife understanding the flashbacks. And the irrefutable, instant connection, like an electric circuit. The same midwife nodding, standing next to me in the recovery room, M at my breast. Better this time? And not being able to speak.

Congratulations. Everything’s always alright in the end, even if the beginning is rocky. They are still the best things since sliced bread. Hell, they’re unspeakably better.

The end of the line is actually within our grasp now. No, no dying involved, no last wishes, no final farewells.

It’s at last the kitchen. Paint. Cupboards. Oven. Sink. Refridgerator that doesn’t conk out with no warning.

Never mind the ubiquitous plaster dust, the ruined kettle from so many cups of tea. Never mind the tears — tears — from the children at yet another microwave meal. Yes, we have had only a microwave — no sink, no hob, no oven — for 4 weeks. We are all fretful, and now begin to feel our lack of 5-a-day. Our moods are all over the place. Our hair(s) have lost condition. Seriously!

This was all my idea, as R hastens to remind me. He’s right. Almost a year ago exactly, I decided this was it. We’d been thinking about it for 4 years, but no physical solution could be reached. Suddenly the physical solution presented: block up a door, knock through another, change the entrance…It grew like bread rising, a little package in a warm place.

We punched it down for six months. Followed it by 3 months’ work just for starters. I have to be frank: I had no idea of the upheaval, the disruption.

But my eye’s on the ball. I daren’t take it off. Otherwise I might decide to sell up. I look to Tiffany in Grand Designs as my role model. I imagine the time when we can actually all stand in the kitchen at once, when we can all cook, all talk, all taste. It’s really that simple; that’s all I want.

It all arrives next week. Tuesday. Today at Sainsbury’s I could not even bring myself to buy another meal in a horrible brown pot. We are eating at friends’ for the next two days.

I’ve never been able to figure: does something become positively unbearable just as it ends — or was it that way all along?

Like starting a novel, I guess a blog has to start somewhere. Although unlike a novel, I don’t have any idea what’s happening next. Or where it will end.

However. Welcome anyone who’s popped in, through, over. I’m not looking at much today except my screen. So the rest of the world doesn’t exist at the moment. Which is a little bit of a relief.


From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning


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Who am I?

A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.