Note Number 83…And It’s All Over Now…

Station Kitchen

Celebrating at The Station Kitchen in West Bay

Well I submitted. Twenty-seven  poems in a portfolio with the title, “Collaboration – Dance & Poetry. Only The Man has read the final collection before submission.  It was hard work for four months, but I very much enjoyed it, and I learnt so much on the journey. I had to read and study many different styles of poetry and I think I have finally ended up with a “voice” of my own. I hope so, because finding your own voice, I have discovered, is an important part of writing poetry.

Firebird Kisses Final© Ninette Hartley Aug 2020

The poem above is from “the collection”. I gave it a last edit just before the final submission. I’ve included it here because a few people have “liked” it — I thought it would be a good one to share. It was inspired by the ballet The Firebird first performed in 1910 with The Ballet Russses.

I now want to finish my memoir about the loss of my son Tosh, and of course I want to write a lot more poetry. I’ve already entered a couple of competitions and looking around for more. I’m one of those people who needs a deadline! In the middle of September I’m going to do a Wild Writing weekend in Yorkshire. Watch this space….

I am now in Bristol to collect my two lovely granddaughters to take home with me to Dorset. It will be a break for their mum (my daugther) but now the pressure is off me, I can enjoy playing with them and spoiling them for a few days.

Girls on the Beach

The last time they visited we went the the beach at Charmouth — I don’t think the weather will be good enough this time.

 

 

Note Number 82…Zoom, just one look…

. . . and then my heart went boom (Remember the song?)  Well, I’ve been ZOOMING now for a few weeks, and so far the closest I got to a heart booming was for my children and grandchildren. Although, I have to confess I felt a twang when I attended a masterclass with Sebastian Faulkes Then, on the 5th August, I watched Simon Armitage on an Arvon Zoom at Home and there was a flutter in my chest when his face came onto the screen. I have seen Simon live onstage in Bridport. Hearing him read his poetry and speak about it was great entertainment, but “meeting” him on Zoom felt special. I reckon I know him personally now — but If I see him in the street and rush up to greet him, he won’t know me at all — I’m suffering from Zoom illusions.

Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage 

Last week I attended a Forward Meet the Poet session with Vicki Feaver (if you click on the link you can hear some of her poetry). What an inspiration she was! A wonderfully ‘laid back’ lady with so much poetry knowledge which she willingly shared. Forty-five minutes wasn’t enough time. I don’t know about others, but I could have watched and listened to her reading her poetry all evening. She was speaking about her book I Want I Want I Want which has been shortlisted in the Forward Arts Prize. I can recommend the book. Her poems are full of imagery and after reading them, they stay with me for a long time. I think this what makes a good poem: good imagery and desire to read them over and over again, each reading bringing you closer to the heart of the poem. I aspire to write like this. At the moment I think I’m a bit hit and miss and not very consistent in my work. But, for me, it’s still early days. It takes a long time to learn poetic skills.

Vicki Feaver

Vicki Feaver

On Saturday 15th August, I was “interviewed” by my son Matthew Rickard. He’s started a new series of podcasts that you can watch on the 1095 Pod on YouTube. I enjoyed the experience and hope if you have the time to visit that you enjoy watching.  Of course, afterwards, I thought of many different answers to some of his questions. Isn’t that always the way? I never mentioned “imagery” when speaking about poetry and for “memorable life events” I never thought about “giving birth to twins” which has to go down as unforgettable. Also, being present at the birth of my first granddaughter — how did I not think of these things at the time?

Me

ME!
Well gotta think big — I’m now on the same page as Simon Armitage and Vicki Feaver !

Only twelve days left before MA Dissertation submission — Better stop having delusions of grandeur and get on with it!

Note Number 81. . .

poetry

Image Clip Art Barn

Today is the 30th July. I have to submit my dissertation and essay for my MA by the 28th August. I should have been going away on the 14th August and had originally planned to have it all done and dusted by then. Am I glad I’ve got an extra two weeks? I’m not sure — The more time you have the more time you take — is what I think.

The odd thing is, I reached my required line limit of 600 for my poetry portfolio a week or so ago, and as soon as I arrived there, I found I could write more and with greater ease, and some quite good (well I thought so). Hence poems are still popping out at the rate of one or two a day. All through working for the portfolio, I was counting lines. . . 300, not enough, only 450. . . how can that be? But, once I hit 600 and the pressure was off the writing became so much easier. I wish now that I had never counted a single line but just written.

Last weekend I attended a workshop organised by the Dorset Writers Networkand run by the lovely Sarah Acton from Black Ven Poetry   We met at the Dorset NectarApple Orchard. Unfortunately it rained but we were able to sit in the big barn and absorb the sound of the rain, breathe the air and when there was a break in the showers we walked outside to get close up and friendly with the apple trees. It was, by coincidenc, St James’s Day the day on which apple trees are traditionally blessed. We did our best with our creative ideas and thoughts. It was an uplifting experience and so good to socialise albeit at a distance, but just to have distanced physical contact and talk writing and poetry again with like-minded people felt so good.

Me and Orchard

Me with the Orchard in the Background

If you haven’t watched them yet there are several Imagine programmes with Alan Yentob, to catch up on on Iplayer, but my favourites were, Lemn Sissay The Memory of Me and Andrea Levy Her Island Story. Both wonderful, inpiring writers with such interesting life stories to tell. Sadly Andrea died at the beginning of 2019…too soon.

I have bought the Lemn Sissay book My Name Is Why and am immediately hooked. What wonderful poetry this man writes.

Lemn-Sissay-Event

Going to reread Small Island now and also her book Fruit of The Lemon which is sitting on my bookshelf waiting. Andrea Levy

Too much to read. . .need more time. Too many wonderful podcasts to listen to. . .

 

Note Number 80. . .Writing Buddies. . .

criticism

I wanted to share the fact that having friends who write and who can give constructive criticism of your own work, are the best of all friends. When I first began my MA in Creative Writing, not only was I rubbish at giving feedback, I wasn’t very good at taking it. The latter still applies (sometimes) as it is not easy to be told something is lacking in your work.

A couple of weeks ago, in a general Teams chat, I was given a bit of a slap from a tutor. He told me that he thought my poem, ‘lacked articles and personal pronouns,’  was, ‘amateurish’ and ‘could have been written by an undergraduate.’ To his credit, he was at pains to tell me he knew nothing about poetry, (why bother to comment you  might ask?) As you can imagine I was hurt. I turned to my friends, who were supportive with encouraging comments. They liked my poem and maybe just a couple of changes would make it even better.  I then turned to my poetry tutor who, without telling me the poem was amazing or crap, gave me some sound advice and I quote:

I wouldn’t worry too much about what you might perceive as negative criticism. It is always tough to take, but nearly always has something of use you can take from it. I learned years ago to wait until my emotional reaction to criticism had died down before using it to improve my work. In the end, people may have different qualifications to critique, but everyone’s opinion has some merit.”

I think I’m going to print this out and frame it.

Back to writing buddies. Too many of them, and you become confused. You need just enough to give varied, subjective opinions. Listen to everything all of them have to say, and if there are similarities in their comments then those are the ones of which to take note. I have settled on around six friends whose work I respect and consequently I respect their opinions.

writing buddies

 

Note Number 79. . . Reading, Writing,Watching. . .

Closeup of Workspace with Modern Creative Laptop, Cup of Coffee

My everyday: pencil, computer, notebook, textbook. 

Just keeping up with everything really. Still slogging away my dissertation work. I’m creating a portfolio of poems based on dance and I am writing an essay entitled, Stress Behind the Creative Arts of Poetry and Dance — this may change as I read and research but you get the idea?

 

yuli 2

Last week The Man and I watched the film Yuli, the rags to riches story of Carlos Acosta. It’s directed by Icíar Bollaín and the screenplay written by Paul Laverty — a magnificent team.  Even though it’s about ballet it’s a film that anyone could enjoy (The Man did, and he’s not a ballet fan). You can watch the trailer here

No Way Home

I had bought the book, No Way Home, on which the film is based, and settled down to read it the day after watching the film. The book provides far more insight into Carlos Acosta’s personal journey, and sticks more to the facts than the film. It has given me a wealth of material to use in my essay. Of course I will have to be careful it doesn’t turn into an essay just about Carlos. The book was the twentieth book that I have read since January this year — not including text books and poetry books. I have found reading during Lockdown easy, although I know some people have been unable to concentrate. What has helped you pass the time while being stuck at home?

I’ve also been keeping a journal during lockdown, paying particular reference to the stress of creating poetry. Luckily for me, so far, I haven’t found the process too traumatic but perhaps you should ask The Man what he thinks!

Also for research, I am reading Poets on Prozac written by Richard M Berlin. It’s a collection of essays by poets who suffer from mental health problems and have had counselling and/or taken drugs or alcohol to help them. Because of the nature of the content — it’s one-sided; nothing about poets not on drugs etc., — I began to think that I could never be a good writer or poet unless I suffer some kind of breakdown. I need to find a text that shows the other side. Which of course there is, because writing/art/drama/dance are all encouraged to help people relieve stress and tension. 

I have also attended three masterclasses through the Arvon Foundation : Cathy Rentzenbrink, Sebastian Faulks and this week I’ll be joining the poet Kate Clanchy for some tips and advice.  I also watched an evening reading by Tania Hershman. It’s the most exciting experience. There can be up to 200 people in attendance, but we all have to turn off our microphones and cameras so the only person on the screen is the tutor. I can assure you that two hours with Sebastian Faulks made my week!

I can highly recommend the Arvon At Home readings and Masterclasses so do check them out here. Arvon at Home When things are back to the “new normal” I’m definintely checking out their residential retreats.

I’ve added links to all the writers and poets even though I’m sure you know them all. It just makes it easier if you want to find out more information.

 

Tania Hershman: Kate Clanchy: Cathey Rentzenbrink: Sebastian Faulks

Note Number 78…Last Leg of the Masters…

Everyone is writing and talking about Coronavirus and lockdown — I will leave that alone then.

MA Update:

I’ve spent the last few weeks working on two stories: one for my Realism submission and one for Prose Writing (I wrote a short memoir). The results came in yesterday, and I was pretty pleased. A high merit for the Realism and a low distinction for the Memoir. If I’m honest, which I like to be, I hoped to get a distinction for my Realism piece too, but it fell short on pace and plot. When I’m in the mood I’ll go back to it and tweak it so that I can either enter it for a competition or develop it into something else. That’s the thing about writing you can always edit, redraft, resubmit or find a home for most pieces of work other than the bin!

editing

A good bit of news is that I was long listed for the Fish Poetry Prize this year. I was indeed chuffed as they had nearly 2000 entries and the long list was 295. The Man pointed out that I was in the top 15% — I could never have worked that out! I’ve now entered the poem for the Bridport Prize…I’ll keep you posted.

Poetry is where I’m at right now. For my MA Dissertation, I must complete 600 lines of poetry. If you say it quickly it doesn’t sound too bad but it will probably be around forty poems. I’m trying to write a sequence of poems inspired by dance; specifically ballet, and even more specifically The Firebird, a ballet first performed by the Ballet Russes in the 1920s. The Ballet Russes were a touring company based in Paris. Their director Serge Diaghilev had left Russia during the turbulent revolutionary period. Read more about it here.

Firebird Costume Leon Bakst

The Original Design for The Firebird Costume by Léon Bakst

I’m enjoying the process of creating these poems but as with every project it seems to have morphed into something much more than The Firebird and Ballet Russes. I downloaded a master class by the poet Billy Collins and one thing he said was: “Let the poem take you somewhere. Choose a starting point and just go with it.” Or words to that effect. It was a good piece of advice. The journeys the poems take me on can be arduous and I get a bit lost before I reach the end, but sometimes, I just arrive without even noticing a bump.

Don’t let the restrictions tie you down — Whoops! I said I wouldn’t mention it — you can dance in your house, in your garden or even in your head. Here’s a little haiku from me:

 

Isadora

dancing is freedom

feel the music let it flow

be Isadora

 

Isadora Duncan 26 May 1877 – 14 Sept 1927

Note Number 77…The Times They are a Changing…

 

university

My university campus has all but closed down, and from next Monday all lectures and seminars will be online. I’ve been coughing since Friday and have self-isolated. Although, as there is no automatic testing in the UK I could just have a ‘seasonal cough’. .Thank goodness we live in the countryside and only The Man might be within a metre of me. . .

At the moment I can still walk the dog. It’s easy not to meet anyone. But, she has been a bit poorly. The vet kindly carried out a telephone consultation, (with me, not the dog) to diagnose the problem. . . she needed a special diet to sort out her ‘tummy troubles’. After couple of doses of paste from a tube, four ‘special’ (exceedingly expensive) meals. She is — as of this morning — right as rain. Is rain correct word? I think we’ve had a little too much of that lately. (I wonder how long we’ll have to keep on with the exceedingly expensive food? 

 

jpeg garden

Jpeg in happier sunny tummy days ….

diaper-clipart-incontinence-6

Could have done with one of these…

I am disappointed that my uni days are all but over. Now, everything is Skype, WhatsApp, and sharing work via email. I had so enjoyed going to the campus, meeting other students and attending lectures and seminars but. . .

learning

I think, the thing to do in these situations is to turn them to your advantage. I’m not using the car now. So travelling time to Exeter and back can now be recycled into writing time. It’s also making me a much greener person on the planet. Have you read how much difference the ‘lock downs’ are making to the environment already? China has much cleaner air and the canals in Venice are clearer and some dolphins have returned. Is this going to be a massive turning point for the world? I do hope so.

Back to my univeristy work. I have two deadlines, 27th April and 28th April, by which time I need to write two pieces of creative writing of 5000 words each plus one supporting essay and on annotated bibliography.

For the Prose Writing Workshop, I’m dabbling in memoir. For this submission, I also have to write an annotated bibliography using at least five books that I have read. I must give a short descrition of each book and explaination of how the book informed my writing.

My other module is Realism writing. Alongside my creative story, I must submit a 1,500 critial essay. . . I’m not so good at those. I cannot quite get that academic voice going but I’ve been practicing. The best way to learn about writing is by reading. I am at present drowning in novels, short stories, essays, academic how to books and online masterclasses. Phew!

My book shelf

Some of the books I’m currently reading

As well as flights and holidays, so many things are being cancelled. Today I received notification that an event scheduled for this July has been postoned until July 2021. The seriousness of the situation hit home. It’s a strange time to be living through, and it could be a long haul. Keep in touch with family and friends by whichever ways and means you can without putting yourself or others in jeopardy. We have a new grandchild. . . a little boy, but it seems it could be some while before we can give him anything but a virtual cuddle.

 

primrose

Spring is around the corner. . . 

PS. If you notice that this is note number 77 and you thought the last note was 77, you are correct. I had to delete a post from a couple of months ago. I couldn’t stand the numbers being out of sync so had to edit accordingly. Happy Days. x

Note Number 76…Quick Catch-up…

It’s almost the end of January 2020. Already the year is going too fast, and this is a particularly special year for me as I have a big birthday in October. But, before I get to that, I still have two terms of my MA to work through. I’m loving it. There is so much reading and writing to do. Who could complain about that? This will be a quick post because I have to finish reading the last story in Alice Munro’s Runaway, a book of short stories. Every single one was a great read.  I love the way her stories slowly unfold, and because of her ‘relaxed’ style of writing, I find myself easily drawn in and carried along. I never feel panicked or stressed when I read Alice Munro. Short stories are definitely back in fashion and thank goodness for that I say.

Alice Munro

How I Image Alice Munro Writes… How I write!

This term I’m taking two modules, and one of them is a Prose Writing Workshop. There are twelve of us in this module plus the lecturer. Three people each week write their stories and send them to the rest for a critique. I offered to be one of the first to send in work. It was an interesting experience. I sent in 2500 words of a memoir. They didn’t hold back! Everyone seemed to like the actual content, although I got the impression that quite a few thought I had tried to include too much information for a first chapter.  Looking at the suggestions and corrections, I decided they were correct in their comments. I will be able to go back and edit now with more confidence.

I do have a bit of a block about commas and general punctuation. I thought I was okay, but looking at all the ‘red markings’ on my work from my colleagues, I think I need to take a few lessons. Anybody got any suggestions for a good grammar book? Or anyone prepared to take on my ‘commas’ which seem to have a life of their own?

 

comms

 

Note Number 75…Pantomime Visit…and Mini Saga Competition Win…

Not a fan of pantomime? Neither am I, so it was a rather reluctant grandmother (or Nonna as they call me) who took her two granddaughters to see Cinderella  at the Pavillion Theatre in Weymouth. I managed to obtain three tickets in the front row of the balcony but the view was a little restricted because the balustrade was covered in thick velvet so unless you had a very long body you couldn’t quite see the front of the stage. Even with the booster seats the grandchilren could not see over. Anyway, minor problem as they stood on my lap or just stood up.

It turned out to be a very good show. Fast moving, lots of good quality dancing and singing from cast and chorus, bright and stylish costumes — including about 20 changes for the ugly sisters. At the very beginning of the show, the Fairy Godmother came on singing and half way through the song, she rose up into the air. My granddaughters’ faces showed total amazement.  She then floated up and out over the stalls all the kids were completed stunned and I was certainly impressed…I have no idea how they did it. I couldn’t see any wires. If you know how they achieved the illusion I’d love to know.

By elbowing my way through the crowds during the interval, I managed to get a ‘golden ticket’ for the eldest granddaughter, Evie, and she had a wonderful time dancing onstage with about twenty other star-struck kids. Highlight of the show for sure.

Evie Golden Ticket hand

The Golden Ticket!

 

Mini Saga Comp

toast

For the second year I entered the Yeovil Community Arts Association Mini Saga competition run in the Western Gazette and once again I was lucky enough to be one of the winners. *blushes for round of applause*  The theme this year was TOAST and I’ve included my little story here for you to read – especially for those who can’t rush out and buy a Western Gazette today as you live in another area of the county, country, continent or whatever. Just to make it clear, it’s a 50 word story and you are allowed up to 17 words in your title. So basically 67 words altogether.  Somebody suggested this little story might make a good short film. I think it might make a feature film! Remember you read it here first!

T.O.A.S.T – Telling Our Adventure Stories Together. The Evacuees Children’s Club. Five members. 1940 – 1946.

reading B&W

At the farm where we’d been placed. We told each other stories and ate toast. Scary Gothic tales; wild imaginings; exaggerated memories of our families and homes in London. After the war we continued meeting annually. Now, there’s only me left; telling stories to the wind, but still eating toast.

Old woman reading

 

©Ninette Hartley December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note Number 74…University…O Yeah!

I began this blog a while ago and should have posted it but – university work got in the way…that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. (nice cliché there).

Photo on 20-10-2019 at 12.25

Thursday 19th September was Induction Day for Post Graduate Students and yes…that’s me, folks! I was excited, apprehensive…a little fish in a very big pond. I parked in the visitors’ carpark and paid the fee due (bit worried about this because after all I wasn’t a visitor but a S T U D E N T. But, a kind chap pointed out that they had no idea whose car it was so not to worry.

Queens Building, Streatham Campus. Lecture Theatre 2 was the designated venue for induction. I took my place early, and it soon filled up with PG students studying subjects under the school of Humanities, including, English, Archeology, Film, Creative Writing (my subject) and a few others.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when the Director of Taught Programmes arrived to welcome us. I thought the university must have employed him from an actors agency… he appeared how I imagine a professor should look. Long grey untidy hair tied back in a ponytail, a pair of glasses hanging on a string around his neck, open neck check shirt, baggy jacket, black waistcoat and corduroy trousers…I mean, honestly, it was Michael Caine in Educating Rita!

professor_skwirk_7

I have to admit to feeling my age on that first occasion. Looking around me, everyone appeared to be in their late twenties or thirties, just the odd, older person hiding in a corner or hunkering down in their seat, trying to look inconspicuous. But, I was relieved later in the day, when we were split into our separate groups to find several ‘mature’ students were studying Creative Writing. Phew! A good mixture, I would say.

Reading week was from 28th October. The first weeks have flown by and I am learning a great deal. At least I think I am. I’m certainly reading a great deal. Text books, poetry anthologies, short stories, newspaper articles, plays and scripts. My brain has trouble switching off in the evening.

This term, I’m studying a poetry module and a module in which I will learn, (hopefully) more about plotting – on an in-depth scale. You might be persuaded to think that 4 hours a week attending university is a doddle. . .let me put your right. I am expected to do 300 hours of work in twelve weeks for the poetry module, and I guess the same for the other. That’s 600 hours in twelve weeks. Now, I’m not very good at maths, but I think that works out at about 50 hours a week plus the four hours of lectures.

There wasn’t much let up over reading week either because, for the poetry module, Professor Andy Brown…he’s an inspiring teacher, asked us to prepare a 1000-word document, evaluating our progress to date, and my aims for the end of the module, plus a few poems, to show ‘how I’m doing.’  It’s wonderful, how much creativity Dr Andy Brown has encouraged and drawn out of his students so far.

For the other module, a 1000-word essay about The Map of Desire…a concept conceived by the tutor Sam North about the needs and desires of the protagonist in any story…moves the story on. It’s more complicated than I’ve made it sound, but you would need to read, The Instinctive Screenplay, to know more about it. The essay was written using the play Waiting for Godot…hmm, say no more. What’s the point anyway? 😂

Other News

I was shortlisted in the Charmouth 50-word story competition but not placed. I entered the Bridport Story slam but didn’t get anywhere. I performed at an open mike evening in Lyme and read out one of my ‘new’ poems saying, with great confidence, that it was a Pantoum. Only to realise later that the poem I performed was a Ghazal...haven’t learned that much then!

I had the grandchildren for two days in reading week; went to the Dinosaur Museum in Bridport and to see Farmageddon the Shaun the Sheep new movie. All good stuff. Keeps you young you know, and I have to do that, as I’ve just entered an important year, at the end of which I will be celebrating a big birthday.