If we were having coffee it would almost definitely be tea and I’d tell you that I feel an urge to tie up loose ends. What I mean is, I have an itch to finish projects, tidy things up, file papers, make decisions, clear my desk. Is it because it’s almost the end of another year that I feel this way? It’s as good an explanation as any.
For the last year I’ve had the feeling that I’m coming to the end of a big writing splurge which started around 2009/2010. Before then, I had a long spell of not being able to write or even read very much. Raising two children had left me quite weary and I found it hard to concentrate so I tried reading graphic novels because I felt I could cope with smaller chunks of writing. And there were pictures!
Maus and Persepolis made me consider different styles of storytelling and showed me ways into writing personal histories and the importance of getting things down on paper before you forget – or before someone dies.
At about the same time, I was working as a teaching assistant in a local comprehensive school and I was obliged to read the same set texts the GCSE students were reading so that I could help them with their coursework. I read a lot of Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and Carol Ann Duffy. And the idea came to me that I might be able to say what I wanted to say through poetry, something I’d written very little of up until then.
So I began reading again. Reading and reading and reading….
and gradually, the writing came back and I wrote poems.
Before long, I had an urge to publish my work, to see if anyone thought it was worth publishing. Actually, that’s not quite true. I’d been working as a teaching assistant for three years and I really wanted to spend more time reading and writing (because being a teaching assistant wasn’t all Plath and Heaney, you know) so I told Andrew I was going to enter the Bridport Prize and try to win first prize (£5,000) – “And then I can give up my job.”
So I sent in my poem, ‘Honeymoon’, and it didn’t win £5,000, it won £50 but I gave up my job anyway and ‘Honeymoon’ was published in an anthology (because it was a runner-up) and I went to Bridport to collect my prize and I took part in Michael Laskey’s workshop (he was the judge) and he gave me a copy of Smiths Knoll the magazine he edited so then I had more poets to read and more to find out about (Michael’s workshop had given me lots of ideas). I’d also started teaching writing at a local adult education college, so I had a small income. This was when I got the urge to be more published and to publish a whole book or pamphlet of my own.
So from 2010/2011 I started working towards that goal, reading poetry, buying books and magazines, teaching classes and taking classes and workshops and sending off my poems to magazines and competitions. Then, two years ago, tall-lighthouse published my first pamphlet The Misplaced House and it was a very happy day.
So if were having coffee (tea) I’d tell you all of this in a rush and your eyes would probably glaze over but I wouldn’t be offended. But the thing is I have this surge of energy now to finish stuff, I’d tell you. So I’ve finally sat down with all of the poems I’ve written since The Misplaced House, I’ve finally put them into some sort of order, I’ve finally faced up to the fact that a large number of them are not actually poems at all and are nothing more than vague musings and scrappy phrases. And I’ve put all of those in a folder which feels satisfying and not depressing at all. They were just dead weight, I’ve finally realised.
There are still a few more jobs to do. I’ve submitted the poems to various places and I still have a few more to send. And then I want to start something new which feels rather exciting. I’m not sure what it will be. It might be poems or it might be something else. I feel I want to write about something else and in a different way. However vague this sounds to you, I’ll probably spill my tea all over myself and you as well because even though it’s a completely half-formed idea, it feels promising.
Thanks to Diana for the idea of a #weekendcoffeeshare. More info here.