Got them Monday morning morning blues….


Not so much blues as confusions.  I woke an hour early having set the alarm wrong so a nice, black but cold morning.  I read Derek Walcott and Adrienne Rich.  An odd couple maybe.  I have had Walcott for such a long time and not read him, now I am diving in to him in a haphazard way and coming up with some jewels.  I like his St. Lucia poems – maybe it’s the taste of the tropical sands, the street corner repartee, the bread fruit and the palms.  It immediately conjures a landscape for me, although of course it is Sri Lanka and the scissoring palms rather than the Caribbean.   I am moving gradually towards working on the Sri Lankan material.  At the moment it is quite a handful of poems and the basis of a book, Careless Beauty, which I wonder if it’s too late to finish.  Surprisingly little has been written about Sri Lanka and I think that maybe I am ready to do it soon. 

Reportage – telling it how it is – it’s what  I am thinking about as I revise all the poems that I have put into the blue folders, in order.  The problem is that that great work has taken, to some extent, the impetus for writing anything new.  Then I ask myself why I am doing this? 

The whole competition thing has suddenly become a real burden and distraction.  Revising what I  already have in the files is good; I enjoy the exercise and it’s interesting to come back to older stuff and see it with new eyes however I think that doing it for the ‘competition’ with it’s deadlines, the cost when I might be buying books of poetry instead, and it’s sense of hopeless opportunity interferes with my need to be a writer. 

What does a writer do?  They write!  They trawl the wreck, they bring up the treasures from the detritus.  I was reading Diving into the Wreck today.  It is such an amazing poem, every time I read it it means something different.  One of those wonderful travelling poems that keeps pace with wherever you are yourself.  I was given a pile of Adrienne Rich when I left my teaching job (thanks Isobel for choosing them).  So these poems have travelled with me for over forty years.  I went to a reading once, in Heffer’s bookshop in Cambridge.  We all sat on the stairs that are wide and shallow leading down to the basement books.  This small, rather dumpy woman sat at the top, her hair in a bun, black clothes.  When she read it was electric; the air vibrated with all the people coming alive, being touched, thinking about their own wrecks and lives.  I don’t think I have acknowledged how her death last year diminished me in the way that important people in our lives leaving us does.

There are people that I always wanted to write to.  Eliot, Doris Lessing amongst them; I wanted to tell them how much their writing had meant to me, how it had changed me as a person.  The only person I ever wrote to was Kathleen Jamie and I think that the letter probably never arrived.  I did meet her though when she came to Falmouth to read  and I realised how important the face is.  I am glad I saw Adrienne Rich.  I am glad that I can visualise Kathleen Jamie when I read her latest book The Overhaul.  I wish it had won the Forward Prize.  And I do feel, like *Maitreyabandhu, that the pressures of external audiences, prizes and competition, can distort the ambience of our writing.  So today I will think about writing something new in between making the curtains for all those new windows! 

* His wonderful article The Further Reach in  Poetry Review Autumn 2011



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5 responses to “Got them Monday morning morning blues….

  1. Where to begin! Firstly, the pressures of competitions and submissions: are you writing for yourself, or to be read? I know that you have lots more to do than simply writing, so you need to strike a balance, allocate time specifically for choosing/editing/submitting, and (more) time for writing. I mostly do that on Sundays, for no particular reason, it just seems to happen that way, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. The rest of the time I write.

    I’d not read any Adrienne Rich, and (being the literal reader that I am) found Diving into the Wreck chimed with my own experience of diving. Maybe it’s metaphor for something else, but I thought she must have gone very very deep for it to go black. I’ve dived to 30 metres, and could see perfectly clearly, even on a wreck (which scared me witless!). I shall definitely read some more of her poetry.

    I didn’t know Derek Walcott either (see how my education has been neglected) knowing only Walcott the famous Barbadian cricketer, who was a lovely man, but no poet. So I have more exploration ahead. Thank you for the prod!

  2. Sundays: ie the submitting chores. My English was a trifle garbled.

  3. Hi Brigid. Lots of interesting questions here from one who has not entered the world of people whose self-defining as poets includes the honing of one’s craft through exposing it to scrutiny in workshops, competitions, publication. Props to your courage and serious pursuit of the craft, though. Thinking about affirmation, about validation, about recognition – are they different, have different desires attached to them, are satisfied by different kinds of response – insightful words about our work, technicians’ chin rubbing as we all look down the hole, recognition from our gods and goddesses, the coins that stand for something…

    And then there’s that other side – the diving so deep it’s black (Viv) – our contemplative engagement with language, words, thought, image, sensation.
    Reminds me too of Kristeva using the marine image (so Walcott link) of porpoises – the way the mind leaps and dives in and out of conscious and unconscious thought. Red cat goes prowling midnight time, the way the diver dives so deep, and Brigid watches the lightening of the dawn, silent watcher, stare-cat, friend to Red Cat, the nun keeps faith with the guttering candle…

    Used to use a Walcott sonnett with u/g primary English students. A lovely one about a sailor getting into a knife fight with someone who dissed his poetry. And I posted on FB one of Adrienne Rich’s poems when she died.

    Gotta go and get new glasses – Ron’s “OK?” means it’s not OK if I don’t jump to it!
    Will write more soon.

  4. yeah and I missed out truth, the truth of it, coin rung, no slipshod slaplap of missed accuracy of tone, word, cadence, meaning…

  5. liked the pic of house – hadn’t seen it in its completeness – hope you and Phil have many years of enjoying your hard work

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