Thursday, 14 April 2011

Pocket a Poem

Apparently it's Poem in Your Pocket Day today over the pond. I don't have a poem in my pocket, but do have one in my bag. So, before the day is over here it is:

The Bight

[On my birthday]

At low tide like this how sheer the water is.

White, crumbling ribs of marl protrude and glare

and the boats are dry, the pilings dry as matches.

Absorbing, rather than being absorbed,

the water in the bight doesn’t wet anything,

the colour of the gas flame turned as low as possible.

One can smell it turning to gas; if one were Baudelaire

one could probably hear it turning to marimba music.

The little ocher dredge at work off the end of the dock

already plays the dry perfectly off-beat claves.

The birds are outsize. Pelicans crash

into this peculiar gas unnecessarily hard,

it seems to me, like pickaxes,

rarely coming up with anything to show for it,

and going off with humorous elbowings.

Black-and-white man-of-war birds soar

on impalpable drafts

and open their tails like scissors on the curves

or tense them like wishbones, till they tremble.

The frowsy sponge boats keep coming in

with the obliging air of retrievers,

bristling with jackstraw gaffs and hooks

and decorated with bobbles of sponges.

There is a fence of chicken wire along the dock

where, glinting like little plowshares,

the blue-gray shark tails are hung up to dry

for the Chinese-restaurant trade.

Some of the little white boats are still piled up

against each other, or lie on their sides, stove in,

and not yet salvaged, if they ever will be, from the last bad storm,

like torn-open, unanswered letters.

The bight is littered with old correspondences.

Click. Click. Goes the little dredge,

and brings up a dripping jawful of marl.

All the untidy activity continues,

awful but cheerful.

Elizabeth Bishop

I have a rather literary weekend coming up: tomorrow evening I will meet the organisers of Moffat Book Events, a new venture which sounds quite exciting. On Saturday I'm to spend the day at a conference organised by NAWE and CCA for graduates of creative writing degrees from Scottish Universities. I'm a bit trepidatious about this as it starts at 9.30 in the morning. I'll have to set my alarm for about 6 to get there on time, so I'll be in serious danger of blindly stoving into people. By the end of the conference I'll probably have pissed off all the nice writers I went to commune with.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Creative Control

The best thing about getting older is, surely, that your birthday presents get better. By better I don't mean more expensive, more elaborate, or more luxurious. I mean more fitting. As friends and family get to know you, develop an understanding of how you work, they are able to give gifts that suit your mind and life. That must be what people mean when they say: "it's the thought that counts." Of course, you have to understand how you work, yourself, before others can.

I couldn't have had a better birthday if we'd been rich and I was given a fifteenth century manor house in Kent. Every neatly wrapped package I opened said: "I understand and love what you are." They will all aid my work, hugely, and my work is me.

I document everything with a camera. This acts as a memory aid, but more importantly slows me down and makes me really look at the world. Thus, I am able to be pretty specific in my writing with regards the details of everyday life. This camera from Bob will help me see even more as I have full manual control: no more point and shoot for me. He even got me a tripod to keep it steady.

No longer a handbag sort I'd been wanting a rucksack to cart my stuff about, and save my back, for ages. I had begun to think I'd never find one to suit both my size (small) and purposes. But Bob researched and found the perfect one for Stevie to get me: collaboration at its finest. (Picture courtesy of present from Bob!)

About this I am evangelical: yes, I love the smell, feel, and look of paper, I've been known to buy books just for the cover, but I don't need two million sheets of it in my house. Acres of wall will now be freed for paintings, and I'll be able to fit a couch – so I can stretch out as I read and learn my trade – into my study. And reading in a breeze just became a breeze.

This arrived in a huge box from my distant (geographically only) sibs. A healthy baby sister for the subject of my last post.

Kelburn Castle. We went on Sunday because I wanted to practise using my camera. I'm using my 30 year old Pentax lenses so am having to dredge my memory for the meaning of f. stops and the like.

Graffiti detail: my old camera would never have picked up this texture from our fenced off distance. Just imagine what I'll be able to show about household implements, and cake.

So, thank you for all your well wishes, I had a marvellous day, and that marvellousness looks set to continue and grow.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Sharing some Joy on this Thursday

My garden took a real kicking this winter: lots of deads. The beautiful bay that I've had for a good eight or ten years and that adds depth to stocks, soups, sauces, and is regularly plundered for the kitchen, turned brown and friable.

Just look at the poor bugger!

I have been meaning to dig it up and chuck it on the compost heap for weeks. So it's Lucky I am very slow to deal with most things because this morning as I was sipping my morning tea in a slant of sun, I saw a speck of vibrant green peering from under the tragic copper. And voila:

a tiny new born laurel leaf. I couldn't have asked for a better gift on the last day of my fifth decade.

More joys: yesterday I got a haircut. I know this isn't unusual for most people but for me it's an event. I hadn't had my hair cut since last July and it was beginning to drive me nuts: I hate that feeling of wool round my neck, and it was fluffy wool at that, like mohair. Now it's small, neat and sleek once again thanks to Dale, who loves golf and has rather fabulous tattoos, of Toni and Guy in Carlisle.

A couple of days ago a friend posted a quotation from George Bernard Shaw on her Facebook page:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

And I realised I used to be a feverish, (though not particularly selfish) little clod of ailments and grievances, but now I have a purpose and it feels like it could be a mighty one: helping people to find their (writing) voices. One of my students is a lady in her seventies who is dyslexic. She has never had the confidence to write. As a child her school-life was miserable: she was told she was stupid, and she grew up believing this. But she has such stories to tell, and now she is beginning to tell them, on paper, in neat, bold handwriting. How joyous is that?