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Just as I start this back up again, I find that I’m doing other, separate, more directed journal work, and letting this slip. Certain things in my life at the moment though feel imperative. Not with a frantic urgency, but with the feeling of get it down quick and messy now. So this blog I think may become irregular. I have only so much time and energy. 

The end result may be a book though. That’s the secret of it. A not so secret. But something that you whisper, in any case.

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Meanwhile look at this. I heard from Lynne Rees recently, and she has started this really fine site, with regular writing prompts. Lynne Rees is very, very smart about writing generally, and about poetry in particular. She’s a stupendous teacher. And a rather fine poet. 

You will find if you go there that she’s put up a couple of prose poems from How to Be a Dragonfly, in order to illustrate the imperative. Aha! There’s that word again. The must-be-done-ness of it. Anyway, there are some responses to the prompt, and they’re good. Enjoy.

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Long ago I promised to keep writing about our Italy adventures. Well, time has marched and I start teaching tomorrow, and I’m up to my proverbial in (lovely! hello John!) Canterbury Festival things, and and….

However. I’m finding that certain things float back nonetheless, even so far away. And they soothe me.

One is the series of Great Rescues carried out every morning, fishing whatever creatures had stumbled into the pool overnight or at dawn. M, as you can imagine, was the dogged proponent of this, and over the days watched butterflies, moths, wasps, bees — and one lizard — grow warm in the sun and return to the wild. 

Here are her hands, and one of the many wet swallowtail butterflies. And the rescued very baby lizard hiding in E’s pool shoe. Ah, the important things in life….

 

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All of this has reminded me of a poem I wrote for How to Be a Dragonfly (see sidebar!), about a spider falling into a swimming pool. The idea came from another family holiday, long before M was old enough to rescue anything. Now I reckon there are times when she saves us all.

 

Pool Spider

 

One step too far and you’re head over heels.  At first it’s refreshing, this surprise encounter.  You’ve never liked nights alone and lately the heat makes something unsettled in you rise.  All you did was get up and walk out into the cooler air, stretch, and close your eyes for a moment.

It’s a funny kind of death.  You feel your own insignificance.  Everywhere you look is blue, blue water.  You climb back up a step before you can move no further, then roll onto your back and curl your legs up over your body, await rescue.

 

 

 

Someone else f(l)ailing rather is Tom, over on The Weirdie-Beardie Chronicles. Apparently his Master is 42 as of last Sunday, and is feeling his age. I say pah! to that as a hardened 44 year old myself — but it’s true that at certain ages certain things seem to turn and turn again.

In response I thought I’d post a poem from How to Be a Dragonfly, about the 42nd prime number. Writing this one just about killed me, for some reason. Well, I know why: the whole book waited on this poem before going to the final edit — the last poem, the 42nd poem, about the 42nd prime number. The confluence of it all just did my head in.

Reading it now, I try to remember the source of all the fuss. I remember that I wanted it to be about (if there is such a thing) the mystery and impermeability of — well, art. Even though all my poems were going into a book, somehow to be ‘understood’ by a larger audience… I wanted nevertheless to hang onto their essential nature, to remind myself anyway of central things that can’t — refuse to be — captured.

Now I see why it was so rough. Trying to capture something I didn’t think could or should be captured. Threw the whole book into question. Ack! Talk about a rock and a hard place.

Here it is, anyway. I hope your Master takes heart, Tom. If nothing else, maybe it says that we are in this for deeper, underwater things, for glimpses. Life out-manoeuvres us and our logic. Which is probably a good thing too.

 

Prime Number 42


We need to know you’re for real, not just some illusion, but bona fide one of a kind.

After all, almost everything is made up of components, the pieces of our lives:  foundation, construction, selling point.  Everything has angles and fractions.  So it makes sense that we look for second thoughts, for other hands, and even, etc.  First we look for a way to hook you and reel you in.

On screen, your seven point eight million digits snake down in scales, a shimmering skin.  We throw everything at you, all manner of dissection, but the surface holds — it’s not that long before we have to believe what we’ve always known:  that nothing can break you, or make you, for that matter.  Your lowest common denominator is only ever you. 

We get exactly what we came for, and throw the rest back in.  Here, you can pretend:  one swish of your tail, and you’re gone.

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.