Things recently enjoyed #2

Lincoln. How incredibly friendly the staff at The Usher Collection are * Seeing my writing on gallery headed paper in a little reading snug at the back of a gallery * Seeing two whole people actually take copies! * Soaking up being in a gallery again, enjoying the little world created and curated by Lothar Götz and the Collection * Eating vegetarian food with all the people who made their vision possible * Being able to stumble into a bed at the end of it (thanks to my mum for finding cheap hotel rooms instead of deciding to drive home at obscene o’clock!) * Going for a run in Lincoln on Saturday morning and the views over the town being SO worth the hill climb * Brunch at Stokes Cafe  with the parents and seeing the Methodist Modern Art Collection at Lincoln Cathedral. Finding a new favourite picture and realising, as we were about to walk out of the chapter house, that the windows are works of art, too. *

Derby. The swishy-feeling of a new hair cut * Spending money and time in Derby with my best friend * Running in familiar places and feeling new again.

Books. ‘Hold Your Own’, Kate Tempest – Love how she weaves the kind of childhood  I remember into the myth of Tiresias. Her poetry is music but not at the expense of believable, breathtaking imagery * ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’, Azar Nafisi – Dangerously beautifully written. I mean literally, you’re in danger of forgetting that this happened, is happening to people right now. I love books about bookworms but Nafisi’s story saddens me too because I can’t bear the fact that people are so dehumanised and oppressed in the real world. * ‘An Aviary of Small Birds’, Karen McCarthy Woolf – I hadn’t read or heard a bad word said about this book. All I can add is, believe the hype.

And also cookies still warm from the oven.



Start fresh

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The mysterious wheel…. of how many poetry books I’ve been reading

So I know it’s February, but I’m always fond of making grand plans and resolutions. This month’s inspirations (or excuses) include:

1. It IS new year in China. Possibly also Vietnam.

2. Spring. Obvs. it’s not here yet, but it’s right there under the surface.

3. Lent. In my religious youth I always preferred the idea of taking up good habits during lent to giving up bad ones. I’m no longer religious but I still have the ‘hoarder personality + poor impulse control’ combination which makes the idea of spending 5 minutes learning French each day so much more attractive to me than the idea of skipping pudding.

So a kind of pagan/Christian idea of renewal and rebirth etc. etc. tends to be my catch-all excuse for not making New Year’s resolutions until February.

Christmas kind of whizzed past in a blur and I suddenly got pretty low   really depressed after Christmas and by New Year’s Eve I just wanted to crawl into bed for the duration of the long weekend. I felt totally over 2016 before it even started.

The lovely thing about depression is that it always goes if you wait long enough. When 2016 started, I fell in love with it all over again and it was the closest a human could be to feeling like a snowdrop.

The truth is that change is ongoing though, and some of my plans for this year have been in incubation since December and I’m sure more will pop up as we go through the year. So far, though:

  • I mentioned in this post about how Roger Robinson, one of our Arvon tutors, got me to seriously rethink how much reading time I give to poetry. Roger Robinson is a big advocate of reading as much as possible, and after my Arvon tutorial with him I tried to make a list of the last 10 poetry collections I’d read. Not skimmed, read from cover to cover. If I included literary magazines, my total stood at a paltry 5.5 over the last YEAR, and one of those was a teeny-weeny chapbook. As soon as I got back from Arvon I pulled one of my unread poetry collections off my bookshelf and just read it in one week, cover-to-cover. There’s an underrated pleasure in reading a poetry collection like this. I never used to realise how much effort goes into the editing of a poetry collection, which poems and which order to put them in. When you read a collection cover-to-cover, you follow the poet’s journey through the collection, becoming really immersed in the world that those poems create. Since Arvon I’ve read a heck of a lot more thab 5.5 poetry collections and it’s been a pleasure (phew- might have needed to consider a career change if it hadn’t been :P)
  • I also want to make more of an effort to enter my writing into competitions and publications. In January I found a commission opportunity to write a response to this exhibition at The Collection Museum in Lincoln. I’ve loved visual art as long as I’ve loved writing and Lothar Götz’s work looked really interesting so I went for the commission…and got it(!) So on Friday I’ll be wending my way up to the exhibition opening. I don’t go to art galleries enough so to be honest I’ll be looking forward to seeing the work itself as much as seeing how my writing will be used in it.
  • Live. Like really, properly live. For months after I got back from my adventures abroad I had seriously itchy feet. Part of me wanted to save a bunch of money and do it again, and part of me really enjoyed not worrying about Dengue fever or needing to brush my teeth with bottle water. Conundrum, I know. But bit by bit I started to put down roots again — Mouthy Poets is a massive set of roots — and now I’m genuinely excited about the next few months, even though I’m not physically going to be going anywhere. A lot of the reason people enjoy travelling (or even just a short amount of time somewhere unfamiliar) is that it’s just easier to be different if you’re environment is. Easier to be open to people, easier not to be in a hurry, easier to convince yourself that ‘no’ is scarier than ‘yes’. That’s what I miss the most about the way I was living a year ago, and it’s totally doable to apologise for existing less, to go for aimless walks and spend hours in museums or writing in a cafe, even if I am doing it in the same couple of cities. In fact it’s probably even more important now, even if it’s a lot harder to do.

So there’s that. No flat stomachs but plenty of hippyish self improvement stuff. Basically, my resolution for 2016 is to enjoy it.

I hope you do, to.