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Let’s take it from yesterday afternoon.

1) Meeting at the Council re Laureate developments, yay! Exciting stuff. Shot out of there like a bat out of hell to go to

2) M’s concert, in which she played in a junior orchestra, and a solo violin piece. And sang. Waved goodbye to E & R who went to

3) E’s concert, where he played bassoon. And sang. M and I skipped this bit, so we could head home, eat and prepare 

4)  the poem she was reading today in a poetry reading competition. Though she wasn’t competing, just reading. I was one of the judges, and…wouldn’t be fair! She bathed, got to bed and

5) E & R arrive home. E sky high sugars from a snack before the concert, not wanting to go low and have a hypo. He eats more and takes his short-acting insulin. He’s shattered, so we tuck him in

6) only to wake at 12.30 am to E having his first nighttime hypo. Dreadful for him, worst one yet. Treated and settled once again, with promise to wake him and test his blood 

7) at 2.30 am. Which we do. All fine. This morning both children and us look and feel like wet dishcloths. Off M goes to school, where I meet her

8) for the poetry reading competition. A fine time had by all, and worthy winners. Photos taken. Half an hour in Starbucks for me then, where I manage to grab some writing time. Then

9) off to ballet. Afterward 

10) we head to coffee. Friends I’ve known for years, godsends. An entertaining and relaxing hour. Too soon

11) head home. Within 5 minutes E back from school. Within 10 minutes

12) he realises he’s low again, another hypo. After treatment we are able figure he overestimated lunch, too much insulin.

13) He says he thinks the lows are worth it for the better sugar levels, even if they mean he grinds to a halt for 20 minutes at time. I tell him his father and I will be looking at the whole picture tonight, to try to reduce them. He shrugs, his newly 13 yr old mind set. He wants good numbers. I admire him more than I can say.

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It’s a bit like that at the moment. The pace of life, believe it or not, has actually slowed slightly. We deliberately keep some things at bay, to make grudging room for the uninvited guest called Diabetes. However. It’s important to keep doing the things that are vital, that feel nourishing, in all ways. To do so you have to make it look easy. Because otherwise it’s all a battle and self-pitying and patently defeating the purpose But I confess to feeling at times like I’m not waving but drowning.

I absolutely cannot believe how long it’s been since I’ve been able to get to this page, this computer. I can’t even bear to make a complete list of what’s been going on. Chickens, lack of heads. Hedges backward. Meeting myself coming. Etc.

Despite my general meltdown, everything seems to have gone just completely swimmingly. Where did I leave you? Ah yes, after wonderful Canterbury Poet of the Year. Then there was the Booker verdict night: really good fun, a good read, good writers — and a surprise winner in The White Tiger. Canterbury’s verdict was Philip Hensher’s Northern Clemency. I’ve read the former (which is why I was a little surprised). Will now read the latter, which got absolutely rave reviews, particularly from Andrew McGuinness, one of the writers there.

Then on the 16th there was the Canterbury Laureate reception and launch of the anthology from the year, called Entirely New: which was wonderful. I was digging deep as they say that day, starting exhausted. But the readings — the children, the adults — and my purple cardigan and tights — kept me going. Another good turnout, and a chance to read some new work. A real corker of a night, an uplift.

THEN at the weekend, a write around town day, only I didn’t do the around town bit. I went down and set up some triggers for whomever was there, then fetched and carried E to piano, made lunch, etc. Then popped into town for the end, to see how it went. By that point I was feeling altogether grey with it all.

Meanwhile the poems from the labyrinth day have been exhibited, and Jan Sellers and I have spent the last couple of days fine-tuning those to go up on — Canterbury buses! Yes, wonderful isn’t it? More on this when it comes to fruition.

Finally (for me, anyway) the Tuesday Readings I’m organising at University of Kent. We had Matthew Welton, then last week Perdika poets, and coming up I am thrilled to say that we have Moniza Alvi and Marianne Boruch joining us. I just can’t, can’t wait. They are both just superb, and exciting, and…if you don’t have your tickets and can get one, come. You won’t regret it. (Meanwhile I am charged with the nuts and bolts which are always the pain of it all: where to get the wine from, how to pay for it, how to pay the guest house, how to make sure the tables get set up when I’m busy with the writers and no one seems to be able to do it, surprise surprise. Etc. Hair-tearing.)

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But beyond all this, more and most importantly, two things:

1) M went to Howlett’s zoo with wonderful friend Nancy (see photos from flickr in sidebar). And how lucky were they?! Lions, tigers, bears…and M’s favourite show, Roar, being filmed! Nancy being Nancy, they managed to keep out of camera shot as requested, watch the whole thing, and get a photo of M with the presenter (who happens to be the one on this clip!). M has been drawing lots of animals this half term, freehand, and has committed whole books of information about them to memory. Hmm…a vet in the making?!

2) E played 5 different instruments in 5 different ensembles on Wednesday night at the Simon Langton Boys Grammar concert. Oh yes he did. Triangle in orchestra (hilarious! not as easy as you’d think, but it doesn’t half look funny); bassoon in wind band (again, an odd instrument really), sang in the choir (by the Rivers of Babylon, fab), some kind of massive drum in a New Orleans jazz band (that woke M up!). And his first piano solo in this school, Brubeck’s Take Five. He did a stunning, stunning job, strolling on without music, jazzing through it, standing up with a nod, and strolling off. Needless to say. We forget he’s only twelve. He seems to have a huge capacity for life, and remain essentially level-headed. We try not to be embarrassingly proud.

 

So, just so we remember what’s important (apologies for sound quality — went for a decent performance rather than purity of sound…amazing just how many performances of this piece are quite, well, below par, speeding up all over the place, messy…makes me realise just how accomplished E is, she says, once again basking in her son’s talents…):

Once again, a fab night had by all last night for the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year awards. This year’s ultra-deserving winner is Sue Rose, for her sonnet ‘When You’ve Gone’. It was a unanimous and almost immediate decision. Such a great piece.

There was a large audience again too (85+) — more proof that there is a rich seam of poetry and poetry lovers around these parts. Very heartening. I read some old and some new work, and enjoyed myself thoroughly — though announcing winners is terrifying!

For the record, the other places were as follow: 2nd prize to Wendy Holmes for ‘On Perranporth Sands’; and 3rd prize to Rupert Smith for ‘Woodwind’. As it happens, Rupert is a second year creative writing student at Uni Kent. In fact, Uni Kent students and former students were very well represented last night, accounting for no fewer than five out of the 11 shortlist places! Heavens. (And in case you are of a suspicious nature, all the shortlisting was done anonymously!) Nicky Gould, another Kent student (3rd year) received an honourable mention for her reading.

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Also for the record, the labyrinth workshop was wonderful. Loved it. Hope everyone else did too. I think so!

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Next on the horizon is the Booker verdict night on Tuesday 14 October, where all of the featured writers around the Canterbury Festival Booker clubs will get together, read from their own work, and await the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2008. With a crowd of course. And wine. I hope.

And just when you thought it was safe to go out, as promised, me on digital tv. John Prebble of the Canterbury Festival looks likes a relaxed old hand, whereas I look little like an ex-dancer academic. Which is kind of what I am. Oh well.

Then on Thursday night, 16 October, is the launch of the WriteHere anthology, which showcases my year as Canterbury Laureate. I’ll give this event a proper post later, but if you are interested, there will be readings from the book — children and adult writers — and once again, I’ll read for a few minutes. It’s a free event, but you need to book a ticket so numbers can be judged (so far, so good — over 100!) This promises to be a really thrilling evening… There’s nothing quite like holding a book — a book with new writing, written by people in this very room — in your hands.

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Before all that though (!), this Sunday 12 October starting at 6 pm is another Orange Street poetry event. Again, I’ll try to pop more details about this on tomorrow, but if I can’t, here’s the website for Canterbury Poets, who are the key organisers, for more details. All being well, I’ll be there Sunday to read a very new piece.

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Do I sound out of breath?!


It’s the weather for it. Well, today and yesterday. Hot and sunny. Never mind that I’ve spent half of both days in exam boards: argh! All well run though and it’s so gratifying to know that everyone in there, the whole department, tries his/her hardest to ‘do right by’ each student. Driving back this afternoon, I did think that there’s that: beyond the numbers, the marking, the admin hassle sometimes from dawn til dusk, there is a deep humanity.

Okay, it doesn’t come out as much as we want. Like the sun. But it’s there.

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So…I’m doing a Laureate event on Saturday (14 June) at Whitstable Tea Gardens, 2-4 pm: a Poet’s Picnic! Yes, you read right. Me and Whippersnapper Theatre again, reading, writing, workshopping. Aimed at children. Theme: identity. To gather pieces for the anthology. Yes, you read right there too. More on the anthology in another post (it’s for grownups and children, everyone indeed in the region…).


COME ON DOWN!

 

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. 

I HAVE MOVED

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.