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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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It’s been a tough old week. After Tilly, a number of things. But it’s also been life-affirming in many ways. Mainly because of friends. And R and Mom. And E and M. 

I came to friends late in life, having the ‘desert them before they desert me’ mentality of someone used to not trusting anyone. For good reason, I might add.

Anyway. Despite several wonderfully loyal and giving friends hanging with me through my teens, twenties and most of my thirties, it wasn’t until my late thirties that I finally stopped running. I looked around. I saw wonderful women (mostly) around me, offering friendship, true friendship. Most of them had been there for some time. I have the feeling somehow they just decided not to give up on me. For which I remain absurdly grateful. Such a simple thing.

I have a thing about not taking anything for granted. Seems almost disrespectful to do so. Yet some things are meant to be taken for granted. They flourish by being as a ‘matter of course’; they quietly sink roots beyond the surface, where wind and a heavy rain can’t dislodge them. They need tending, but only in the daily run of things, no more, no less. They are there, no matter what happens.

No matter what happens! No matter what happens. This is the secret celebration for me, the unexpected. It’s no big deal, no drama. No questions need to be asked, no unspoken price.

Two phonecalls, three texts, many blog comments. Several emails. Four, five, six face to face conversations. A raucous dinner.

So, to all of you, thank you. I’m not looking forward to the week ahead, but — cliche upon cliche — you’re making it bearable.

I started this post wanting to point you to my good friend Nancy Wilson‘s Flickr widget that I’m so thrilled with. I love her stuff, really love it. I just wanted a bit of her kind of light on these pages. 

To get you started. And me. Happy Monday.


Okay, the truth can now come out: the night of my last post was the actual launch of Messages and Your Messages…only I couldn’t say it because the event was mega-oversubscribed and even one more person would have popped the place like the fabled ‘wafer thin mint’ (it would have).

What a night. Buzzy from start to finish, and the work was top notch: hilarious, thoughtful and moving by turns. Thank goodness I wear waterproof mascara, let me put it that way. I was particularly struck by the pieces read by Oz Hardick, Caroline Smailes, Bob (erroneously Bill!) Merckel, Clare Grant, Mary Rose Rawlinson, Gina Benson, Ken Elkes — and of course Alex Johnson (of shedworking)’s final Your Messages riff. And actually, now that I look at the book, I know there were others I thoroughly enjoyed, and many more fine examples held in the pages. Once again, well done to Lynne and Sarah. A hugely successful and generous project, a catalyst for so many.

Gina Benson had come all the way from TEXAS for the occasion. It was her first published piece and by common consensus, a doozie. She and her friend were wonderful, as was Bob M, another American…We exchanged home thoughts, raining-in-Britain observations etc, and, as always happens in these situations, my all-time favourite Texas bumper sticker spread itself across the backwall of my brain, like some kind of flypost. I saw it the last time I landed in Houston, on the freeway back to Beaumont:

Texas bumper sticker

As a native Texan, my heart thrills to this. It encapsulates everything but everything about that simultaneously overblown and self-deprecating state. Love it.

I like things with a certain…symmetry? weight? Presence. I like things that come into the world already artefacts.Messages cover Messages and Your Messages are two such things. The original Messages project, between Lynne Rees and Sarah Salway, grew out of a collaboration, just an idea that both of them stuck to. The result is hugely neat and satisfying: 300 pieces of 300 words each. Deep sigh.Your Message cover

Now it’s launching into a smaller format, along with the culmination of the Your Messages project, another brilliantly conceived and executed collaborative project. Lynne and Sarah collated the work, choosing at least one piece for each day of the month, and bluechrome have produced an anthology from it: all proceeds to charity. Talk about art. Yes, let’s talk about it: art as in making from materials, where process is valued as much as product. Where something emerges which moves the eye, the mind and the heart, fully occupying its own space.

Longer term readers of this blog will remember the fun I had doing my first one, on 8 November. It’s the one in Your Messages. Which I can’t wait to get my hands on.

And hooray! Thrilled to discover over the weekend that one of my pieces has been chosen for publication in Your Messages. As some of you may remember (or maybe not…), the blast of doing it was long-lasting. When I was in the Lakes in late November, I felt quite bereft of the whole project, having wanted to do at least one a week to keep my hand in….Alas, to venture to Hawkshead and try to find a computer would have been breaking my pact with the Land of Long-hand. So I didn’t.

However. It’s turned out more than all right in the end. The launch for Your Messages goes like this:

Messages coverDate: Thursday 31 January 2008

Time: tbc

Venue: The Poetry Cafe, Betterton Street, London WC1

I’ll be reading, along with maybe 20 others! Sounds fabulous. I’m very honoured. Thank you to Lynne Rees and Sarah Salway for thinking of it, and for running such a tight ship. A wonderful, enriching and utterly sound idea which created a strong community, and will produce a fine artefact. Not to mention make some good money for a more than fine charity. Hats off to you, ladies!

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.