Monday, April 25, 2022

Jam tomorrow or jammy dodger?

I searched in the Thesaurus and found few synonyms of interest for the word 'retired'. I googled and found a lot of worthy organisations, charities and suggestions of illness, care, depression and so on. In the year of my official retirement, i.e. when I got my state pension, On Poetry has been published and it's doing a little of what I'd hoped for - it's entertaining some fellow poets and dispensing thoughts I've wanted to share. And as I read the paper free over breakfast thanks to Press Reader I am beginning to realise more women are starting to support one another again. 

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

Poet gardeners

Banners in the exhibition
celebrating the writing of 
Jamaica Kincaid

My recent escape to Utrecht followed several intense weeks. I neglected the allotment and put in my first early potatoes only hours before I left on Eurostar. Potatoes, flower seeds and bulbs were my priority. 

So when Giya and I were looking for things to do it was obvious I'd want to see the exhibition at the Centraal Museum, The Botanical Revolution, On the Necessity of Art and Gardening. And when we wandered around, how delighted I was to see a tribute to Jamaica Kincaid

In my own way, over the two or more years I've been finalising On Poetry for The Poetry Business, I've also attempted to prove the links between writing and gardening. 

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. 

And where better to daydream about gardening than in The Netherlands, whose old masters knew a thing or two about plants and pollinators.