Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Spiders are coming inside early


Summer fruit - the June raspberries and blackcurrants
Part of my aim for this summer was to finish a first draft of the Venda Sun. Another was to crack on with some more poems based on old letters written to me and by my grandfather to my grandmother during WW1.

The letter poems feel exciting and I have been waking up thinking about them. In odd moments when I'm gardening or cleaning, I think about the next one. They run parallel to the poems I've been writing about age (coincidentally, the postman's just delivered the latest copy of The North with some of those age poems in).

I remember reading in an interview with Paul Muldoon that it's a good idea to keep writing at a distance for as long as possible. Well the summer's done that for me. A summer of change, a house full most of the time (wonderful), the allotment and cleaning.

I used to write every day. I might go back to that, but my pile of notebooks has barely changed. I have spent a lot of time wondering how people manage to produce dozens of books, what productivity actually means. I don't have an answer. I am envious of people who are driven but perhaps have always been too much of a grasshopper. I want time to make things other than with words.

Anyway, The North - edited this time by Naomi Jaffa and Dean Parkin, marvels of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, Naomi now enjoying a much needed break from it. I've been nervous about these little, terse age poems, which remind me of the menopause ones, as if I hadn't quite finished with all that and of course, I haven't….thank god I am still alive and post-menopause facing the realities of being the woman with striped hair and a lined face.

Giya turns 21 on September 12 and that somehow marks a real turning point, more than being 60. Both her and Mrisi, then, will have passed that symbolic line into adulthood.

But other than all the change, there are constants like harvesting to do and trying to catch spiders to get them out of the window. Spider season's come early, autumn raspberries are just starting to ripen but they're taking their time because it's been so cold. They needed this recent sun but the heads are heavy with unripe fruit that may yet come to nothing if the temperatures drop again. The apples have done well. Even early in August, the Discoveries were fabulous.

Outside a shop in Steyning
My reading this summer - Agota Kristof, Charles Simic's translations of Vasko Popa, Sian Rees' biography of Lucie Aubrac, guidebooks on Sicily, short stories - Flannery O'Connor, Richard Wright, Elizabeth Jonsson, Jesse Stuart, Bessie Head and many more. Not so much poetry. Sometimes I need a break from it, but I'm looking forward to making my way through the 129 poems in The North by writers as varied as Sharon Olds, Thomas Lux, Linda France, Finuala Dowling, Alicia Stubbersfield, Stephen Knight, Helen Nelson and Paul Stephenson, to name just a few.