Sunday, August 28, 2022
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
I am the song what the angels sing....each of the lines in this short poem written by one of my children many, many years ago, stands on its own as a flag of confidence and self-belief. I am so proud of it, and of the many others I've stuck in scrap books, retrieved from old hard drives, transferred from one laptop to another. These poems have the status of faded colour 35mm photos from camping holidays.
I came across the poem after a generous friend, Jill Gardiner, the historian and poet, took me to Charleston Festival at the weekend. The singing began. What I mean is the older I get, the more connections, resonances, chimes there are. Or is it that lockdown provided a detox and now I am more open to the many ways artists' work reflects my own life?
The first bars of the angel song were Michael Morpurgo talking about his farm for city kids (my cousin set up one of the first city farms in Cardiff decades ago) and Brighton illustrator Emily Gravett who was just so honest about academic failure.
More bars came as Sarfraz Manzoor and Yasmin Cordery Khan talked about white wives, mothers and the experiences of mixed race children. As they spoke, my son Mrisi was preparing for another gig at Brighton Festival, his music the vessel for his experience growing up with British and South African heritage. And my daughter sent me pictures on Whats App of her show in Germany: photos born in an interrogation of colonialism, heritage and cultural ownership.
I was itching to ask questions, but they are perhaps better off unsaid so they can continue with their music, fizzing, building momentum, burrowing, sitting with those sky gods. And they took me back to this poem about identity, written when my adult children were so little and came along to help out at Saturday workshops for children. Which brings in On Poetry, just a month in the world.
Monday, April 25, 2022
I've never been to the Venice Biennale but was delighted to read that artistic director Cecilia Alemani had given over more space to women this year, to the extent that women artists outnumber men. Angela Rayner has been supported for highlighting misogyny in politics and in On Poetry I hope I'm helping balance the scales in UK poetry, where the canon has been, throughout most of my life, white and male.
Many women have analysed why. I'm less interested in analysis nowadays (although I still recommend Tillie Olsen's Silences) more in change. So in On Poetry, 18 of the 21 poems featured for close reading are by women, one by a non-binary writer and two by men. My approach has been autobiographical and my last words were written in a rush of frustration with the lies of jam tomorrow. Alice says, 'It's terribly confusing..." although I disagree - jam tomorrow is a pretty simple yarn we should see though but we can't hear ourselves think.
While the sun lasts, I'm up at the allotment, planting. As for retired, my laptop thesaurus provides these synonyms: retired people, pensioners, old-age pensioners, OAPs, senior citizens, old people, the elderly; North American seniors, retirees; rare retirers, pensionaries. The associations these synonyms lug with them are another proof of the 'jam tomorrow' deception. Jammy dodger, anyone?
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
|Banners in the exhibition|
celebrating the writing of
Kincaid's been quoted as saying, "Gardening is like writing, I suppose; you don't really know what you are doing, but you don't really want to know."
In the week I was away and before I left, friends were telling me how their pre-ordered copies of On Poetry had arrived. I only saw mine last night when I got back. It was bigger than I expected, but it's two books in one. The poet gardeners inside include Olive Senior, Janet Sutherland, Sarah Maguire and Wang Xiaoni, but of course there are many, many more.
Sunday, February 20, 2022
|Slow Dancer magazine|
was edited by John Harvey,
the novelist and poet,
who also produced my first
pamphlet Black Slingbacks
When I started sending work to magazines I relished the company I found myself in. I read new work, my horizons grew. In April, the Poetry Business is bringing out a book I've written on some of the poets that influenced me and work I've done in turn, helping others write. It's On Poetry: Reading and Writing Poems.In a nice circularity, the PB produces The North, one of the first magazines I was accepted by. I was an honorary northerner in magazines produced far from Surrey: The North, The Wide Skirt, The Echo Room, and I was in the company of poets who have continued to create work that influences how we perceive the world.
Wednesday, February 02, 2022
|Cornelis Ketel, |
portrait of woman