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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.

*

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.

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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 think that the last post had some kind of magical effect. Indeed! I don’t think it’s rained since. Seriously.

However it has been one looonnng week, and once again all I can do here is come up for air.

1) Poet’s Picnic on Saturday: a good time! writers, children, hot sunshine, and the most fabulous spot by the sea in Whitstable Tea Gardens.  A real pick-me-up.

2) Also on Saturday: a real live ball! This will mean nothing unusual to Brits, but to Americans…well, I’ve always wanted to go to one, and lo, I go. Long black dress, pearls (James Bond theme), stilettos. No R, not his scene, but I gamely sallied forth, and had a great time. I went for the dancing, and did plenty, losing my shoes more than once. Ahem. Also rode on bumper cars, four times. Ahem. Took a fake pistol. Ahem. And enjoyed draping myself over the pretend casino tables. I know, I know. I’m a child. I loved it. 

3) Journeyed up to Norwich School of Art & Design on Sunday night. I’m the new external examiner there for their creative writing BA programme. Given that I used to teach there (and so enjoyed it), it was a real treat to see what everyone and everything is up to. And it’s good stuff: fresh, vibrant, almost raw work sometimes — rarely if ever suffering from the over-writing that students also studying with literature with a vengeance can sometimes produce. There is also the added bonus of text and image work, which I’ve always found fascinating: index cards arranged in months, with an entry on each day. Accessible in order and randomly. Performance poetry with video link and guitar. Art house stuff. Exciting stuff. A pity then that the course has been cancelled. While there I heard that I shall see it out examining-wise: well, I’ll try to do it proud.

I’d like to be more involved with the visual arts. But I’m sorely, sorely lacking in skills and no doubt talent in that department. Alas.

4) Schubert has slain his first creature. After several weeks of (we thought) farcical hunting (I mean, a bright white cat jogging through the undergrowth, long hair flowing in the breeze — come on!), I walked downstairs this morning to frantic calls and a little deceased vole lying right smack in the middle of the doormat. He was delighted with himself, and I’ll admit it, I felt a tiny rush of pride.

5) M plays in yet another concert tomorrow. She has a new 3/4 Italian violin, which makes a much bigger sound. Suddenly her bowing arm has a life of its own. She’s the only first violin tomorrow, backed up by several second violins. She’s also the youngest. Somehow she just seems used to it all….

6) E is learning this. It is the cool of cool.

 

1) it has rained for days

2) I’m sick of rain

3) and my students are writing more than me

4) by a long way

*

5) all I want

6) is one party

7) and another

8) you might think other people

9) fill those spaces

*

10) the truth is

11) I’m fond of laughter

12) and rather simple

13) in my pleasures

*

14) so there

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.