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 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 71. . .Seamus Heaney Home Place. . .

Me outside

Last Monday The Man and I were in Northern Ireland, and we took the opportunity to visit Seamus Heaney Home Place. It was the most inspirational few hours that I have spent in a long time. What a prodigious man. Not just a great poet but one prepared to mete out his knowledge to everyone. By coincidence, there was an article about Seamus Heaney,  in the Royal Society of Literature Review, waiting for me on my return from Ireland.  I was interested to read this quote, about his engagement with his thousands of correspondents,

‘. . . I have a feeling of responsibility towards those who want contact with poets or poetry.’

He replied to everyone who wrote to him.

He was, I think, an approachable man, someone who would easily chat to a person like me. Unfortunately, I will never get that chance. Seamus Heaney died in August 2013 at the age of 74. But, I did have the opportunity to visit the museum, in his birthplace of Bellaghy. I was able to listen to his voice reading his beautiful words. I was truly inspired. Sometimes, reading the work of a literary genius can just make you feel defeated, in the knowledge that you could never be that good but somehow, his voice, his infinite words, urged me on, to try and create some good poetry in my own voice.

Words

Dialect words used in Seamus Heaney Poetry — Witney, one of the guides at Home Place, printed out a glossary for me of over 100 words. I doubt I’ll be able to use any of them (I could try) but they make fascinating reading.

 

I’ve got the notebook, pencil, mug and a few anthologies. Time to put them to good use . .

Note Number 52…Waiting…

 

 

Here is a little poem I put together while I was walking the dog and waiting for her to finish looking into the distance at. . . nothing. It made me think about how much of my life I spend waiting for someone or something. When you’ve read this you can add your own ‘waiting for…’ in the comments.

 

I’m always waiting
waiting for the dog
waiting for the kettle to boil
for the washing machine to finish, for a cake to bake
how much time do I spend waiting?
waiting for the bathroom to be free
waiting for my money to get to the bank
I’ve always waited for that, first birthday gifts, then salary, now pension
I’ve never waited at the altar
even though I’ve been married three times
I’ve waited in the courtroom for a divorce

waiting at the cemetery to watch a burial
waiting to spread the ashes of a loved one
stood, waiting in line to buy a stamp
waited for people to come through the barrier
at the airport or the station
waited for a taxi to come along

Waiting, always waiting
I’m always waiting for my turn,
at the shops, at the doctor’s, at the poetry evening,
at a dance competition when I was younger
for my husband to come back from a bike ride now
I’ve waited to be served, with tea, coffee, cold drink
wine, water, snacks, food
waiting for a letter to come
waiting for an email to tell me good news
waiting for my next birthday
waiting at a junction

waiting for a baby to be born, waiting for a relative to die
we’re born waiting.
pausing, postponing, lingering, hanging around, marking time,
killing time when we should be living time
but
we’re waiting

waiting. . .

always waiting

 

 

Ninette Hartley © February 2018

waiting for computer

This is The Man…every day! 

 

 

Note Number 47. . .How I remember Christmas. . .1955-1960 (approx)

family

Family Songs Around the Piano

It’s easy to become nostalgic at this time of the year. . .it was all so different when I was a kid, but is that because I was a kid? Or were things really different? Less commercial I’m sure and our expectations were way lower. . . Whatever it’s all good fun. This poem is for my brother Tony, who was often away at Christmas because he was at a choir School and had to sing on Christmas day. Also for my sister Jean,  her birthday is on the 23rd December (the day I’m uploading this). I’ve always felt sorry for her having her birthday so close to Christmas as I’m sure people used to give her a joint present. I think she should celebrate in the summertime and have an official birthday too. I’m sure I know at least one person who does that . . .

As ever, press the play button to listen or scroll on down to read. . .

When I was a kid there was much less fuss
No starting in September to beat the Christmas rush
We never got excited before the twenty-fourth
Any early preparations were of the culinary sort

Mother made a pudding and we all gave it a stirchristmasput
She’d put a sixpence in it, and a spoonful of liqueur
Nowadays the sixpence is outlawed in every pud
As you might choke, or break a tooth and that would not be good

Father carved the turkey, mother drank the sherry
Brother played the piano and we sang, all warm and merry
Sister talked about her boyfriend, though I think she told me fibs
And I laughed out loud and ate so much until it hurt my ribs

Crackers and silly hats were the order of the day
You read the joke aloud before you threw it straight away
Mother kept all the bits of tinsel and crepe paper
She always said she would find a use for it, sooner or later

On Boxing day, we ventured up the M1 in our Ford
The journey took ages, as long as going abroad
We’d visit Auntie Florence in her big house with an Aga
Tea and cakes in the dining room – it was a huge palaver

The table was enormous, full-size for playing snooker
With mahogany cover, and fancy cloth – it was quite a looker
Heaving with meringues, coconut pyramids and scones
My aunt never had a problem keeping up with the Jones

Other aunts and cousins were all gathered with us there
The kids all liked each other, we didn’t really have a care
The grown ups used to send us in the garden for a run
‘Go and see the rabbits’ they’d say, ‘it will be so much fun’

The journey home to Ruislip was done well after dark
My dad driving recklessly, thinking it would be a lark
I vowed one day I’d have an Aga so that I could make and bake
Those mouth-watering meringues and other sumptuous cake

Ninette Hartley © December 2017

christmas tree

 

As an adult, I did manage to have an Aga for a while and it made the most wonderful meringues. . . meringue

 

Note Number 45…Christmas is Coming…

I decided back in September to write enough Christmas Poems to fill a small book…ho ho ho, ha ha ha, I didn’t manage it. But I did write a few, so I’ll post them here over the next couple of weeks both written and recorded. Herewith is Rudolph’s Rebellion. First performed in public at Apothecary Words in Bridport on the 13th December 2017.

Rudolf’s Rebellion

reindeer-clip-art-41 copy

You can hear me read the poem if you click on the link below – otherwise read on…

Rudolf’s had enough
he’s fed up, he’s resigned
he doesn’t want to pull that sleigh
another bloody mile

he’s over it
he’s done his bit
round the world and back
every year, forever, with Santa and his sack

now he’s sat down on his haunches
he’s refused to budge an inch
FC shouted, spat and stamped
the other reindeer flinched

Rudolf was having none of itRudolf Text
he’d worked without a break
time to retire! Go out to grass
his pension he would take

I’ve had to raise the limit
of retirement for my lads
I must inform you of your rights
or lack of them, I should add

if you were born before the 50’s
you would have been okay
but sorry to tell you Rudolf
you missed it by a day.

you’ll have to draw your horns in
work longer for your money
what? splattered Rudolf
if that’s a joke it isn’t funny!

I know that you’ve worked long and hard,
I understand you are upset
and frankly with your bright red nose
you’re more than just a pet

but times are hard, the money’s short
austerity means there’s less
you’ll have to give me one more year
and then we’ll re-assess

I’m getting old, my bones all ache
my flat feet all have corns
I get out of breath when in the clouds
and my antlers are all shorn

well, what do you think it’s like for me?
climbing chimneys and the like
delivering toys, of every kind,
every other one a bike

Dasher and Dancer looked forlorn
Vixen and Comet distraught
Cupid, Dunder and Donner were drunk
they’d finished last year’s port

don’t worry, I can sort it out
said Santa to the rest
I’ll talk to Rudolf, make him see
remaining with us is the best

Rudolf sighed, there seemed no choice,
but he wanted to leave while able
just talking about it made no sense
with no offers on the table

the leaders canvassed long and hard
should Rudolph leave or remain?
everyone had to take a vote
no-one could abstain

the outcome wasn’t decisive
with a split of fifty-fifty
vote rigging was suggested
the tellers all looked shifty

after one more round of talks –
more like shouting verbal abuse
no further progress could be made –
not in time for the evening news

they agreed to defer any action
until after this Christmas was done
but with his eye fixed securely on Rudolph
father Christmas began cleaning his gun. . .

santa-with-gun copy

HO HO HO….

Ninette Hartley© December 2017

Note Number 35…The Bunny Birthday Cake…

cakeathome

The Bunny Cake in Dorset before Transportation and a Few Final Additions..

The Bunny Birthday Cake

I said I’d make the birthday cake, how foolhardy am I?
‘A number one or a bunny?’ I had to give it a try.
I chose the bunny and forged ahead, feeling quite inspired…
Number one, would’ve been, a piece of cake…’scuse the pun, I’m tired.

Four sponges I made altogether, two chocolate, and two quite plain
The sizes seemed to be slightly off, though the baking tins were the same
I cut them down and shaped them, being careful as I went
And fixed them together with icing and jam, hoping that would act as cement

It sat in the fridge ‘til morning, when the next phase could begin
I needed a layer of icing, should it be think or should it be thin?
The shop bought fondant was perfect, it was quite therapeutic to play
Rolling and shaping, cutting and making – the highlight of my day

I wanted to make some carrots for the dear little bunny to nibble
But no orange colouring could be found…not even a tiny dribble
I mixed the pink and yellow, but that was awfully pale
Perhaps this bunny could be eating a healthy piece of kale

The bunny’s hind feet didn’t look right – fat and rather heavy
They could belong to a monster, or a mini sized, white-haired yeti…
An attempt to shape the lop ears, was an impossible task I found
Except for his tail, I should have put, the whole bunny, right under the ground!

In the end the cake was presentable, you could say a bit of a winner
The one-year old really loved it – and the four-year-old ate it for dinner
From the front he looked delightful, with two orange carrots to boot
From behind, he was giving two fingers up…so perhaps not quite so cute!

Ninette Hartley July 2017 ©

In the Making 

 

They did love it honestly

They did love it honestly… 🙂 (Note the orange carrots) 

from behind2

The Bunny Didn’t Care Either Way!  ha ha ha

Note Number 34…When our Granddaughter Came to Stay…

kite1Evie Flying the Kite at West Bay (you can just see her on the right hand side, almost out of sight behind the fence)  

Our four-year-old granddaughter came to stay from last Friday until Sunday afternoon. It was lovely but exhausting. Grandchildren are a delight, especially, as when you’ve finished with them…you can give them back!

I penned a little poem for the occasion…

Collected and home in time for brunch
Or maybe, it could have been an early lunch
‘A cheese sandwich please.’ The request for food
So I made it with love…I thought it was good
But the cheese was apparently far too strong
Trust Nonna and Popsie to get it all wrong

When staying with you – they get away with a lot
Because parenting is definitely one thing we’re not
Ice cream and crisps, TV and games, and buying them all
The toys that they want – though most things are small
A rubber snail she called Albert, a hopper, a kite
Popsie said, ‘there’s no wind’ but for it’s maiden flight
She and I went to West Bay and found enough breeze
Upwards it floated with the greatest of ease…
(I’m sure I’ve nicked that line from somewhere)

We went to the beach, we walked in the sand
And played in the rock pools hand in hand
We came home exhausted – us more than she
And Nonna needed something stronger than tea
She stayed just a few days, it was all good fun
Although none of the usual jobs could be done
Waking up at six-thirty is not to our taste
So this week we’re sleeping ‘til ever so late
(and even in the afternoon!)

The cottage has been left with remnants galore
Teddies, toys and books, all over the floor
The bathroom’s invaded with ducks, fish and boats
And a little girl’s wellies are stashed under our coats
But, who would have it any other way?
It’s great when the grandchildren come to stay

Ninette Hartley © July 2017

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Note Number 33…When The Man’s Away…

It’s been a busy few weeks and I’ve not had time to write much (not on my blog anyway). Poor excuse I know but The Man rode his bicycle for a week in the Alsace (Vosges)  and then instead of coming home on the 25th June he took the opportunity to cycle four epic climbs in The Alps and the Pyrenees. I am so proud of him!

Check out the Slide Show!

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I made the most of his absence by tidying up the garden and painting the garden furniture. It all looks fabulous. Paint used was Ronseal Garden paint and I can highly recommend it. We had some great weather in June…no complaints from me.

painted garden stuff

Newly Painted Garden Furniture

border

Splendid Work on the Herbaceous Border 

Other things I did while The Man was away.

  1. I attended my third Black Venn Poetry workshop in Lyme Regis. I find these highly stimulating and never fail to produce a piece of work of which to be proud. I’ve even entered one for a competition, I’ll let you know how it goes.
  2. I entered a 2700 word short story for a competition run by the Literary Trust…It had to be a modern version of a fairy story. I chose Little Red Riding Hood, (I’m sure a few others will have done the same). I will let you know what happens, if anything, later in the year. I was pleased with it but don’t hold out too much hope as there will be plenty of brilliant entries I’m sure.
  3. I went to Bristol and to Weston Super Mare for my grand daughter’s first playgroup outing. It was…err…memorable. The day before it had been 30 degrees but the day of the outing, the rain clouds came in and the temperature dropped over 10 degrees the wind got up…

    So the sand ended up in everything, not just our sandwiches but in our hair and underwear. (think there’s a poem there somewhere). The baby ate the sand and the four-year-old got it in her eyes. But she still managed a donkey ride and an ice-cream before we beat a hasty retreat back to Bristol for a cup of tea and a piece of cake!

  4. I deep cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom in our cottage.
  5. I watched Poldark on Sunday evening.
  6. I have started doing Driving for the Disabled with the Forde Abbey Driving Group. Driving is a branch of Riding for the Disabled but we have ponies pulling carriages which are able to take wheelchairs if necessary.
    DRIVING

    Driving through the Arboretum at Forde Abbey

    I joined the group at the end of last year and so far, for many reasons, I have missed several sessions but I’m back on track now. It’s something I did for years when I lived in Devon and had my own pony, Ginger. Lovely he was. I don’t feel the need to get another pony but I am enjoying other people’s. I have to be re-assessed as a Coach Driver – more form filling and courses to attend. More learning and stuff to remember, for my poor brain to cope with. Hoping it won’t take long.

  7. I went to the ballet in Bridport and saw  Ballet Central. It was an excellent performance of several short pieces. The company is made up from students in their final year. By the look of things some of them will go far. Thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. How they managed to adapt to the small stage,without loss of performance, was quite remarkable. Well done all! 
  8. I read a few books, some better than others, but I enjoyed them all. The last one was My Animals and other Family by Clare Balding. I loved it, a beautifully written memoir of her childhood up to her twentieth year when she went to Cambridge University. I don’t know much about horse racing but I do love horses and dogs and that is the basis of her book. It’s written honestly and openly.

I think that’s most of the important stuff covered. Oh I did fall over and graze arm and knee pretty badly and when there’s no-one at home and even the neighbours are away you just have to get on with it don’t you?

It got worse before it got better but thankfully nothing broken…Oh wait a minute, I broke my tooth the following day. That’s three things then…no more to come, hopefully.