Margaret Cameron and the Tennysons

Us Ventnor writers started a new project yesterday with a visit to Dimbola Lodge – the home of Margaret Cameron who is known nowadays as an innovative photographer in her time – Tennyson’s time – his family lived next door at Farringford.

So after a talk and looking around the gallery of her work, this poem about Emily Tennyson and Margaret when the Camerons prepared to return to Ceylon.

I gave her a grand piano
She gave me a pink rose
I shall hear exquisite music in my mind’s eye
Transitory, a pink rose.

There’s something about giving and receiving
that I love.
There’s never too much of either.
A pink rose, this one unique
fresh at its peak of beauty
prickly to grasp
petals soft to touch, sweet to smell.

Make way for adventures to come
with backdrop of Freshwater ever present
Ceylon tea in English tea cups
hot dampness in place of fresh gales
rustling tea plants versus distant crash of waves.

Where is home?
My sons, my husband, my beginnings shall be my end.

Stealing stuff to make a poem

Tomorrow the British Science Festival starts in Birmingham and the titles of some of the talks and workshops are amazingly curious so I’ve stolen some of them, jiggled them about a bit and it’s a poem of sorts another kind of voices of the Earth – science style:

How old are you really?
Sound of stars
Can you walk on custard?
Medical Mystery tour of a beautiful brain
The carbon conundrum
Robot turtle to Raspberry Pi.
Being green can stop you feeling blue.
Of crafty crows and space shuttles
Your astonishing liver
What have bubbles ever done for your (I made this one up).
Why don’t you have teeth in your eyeballs.
Forests of the future.
Mind-brain mythology
The incredible unlikedness of BEING.

[Reference: British Science Festival Programme 2014).

One minute

Another exercise in listening and speed poetry – 60 seconds – 57 words (one for each of my years!!!)

Wave after wave, rhythmic bumping
Rubber on tarmac
Sounds merge after a while
One continuous hum
It comforts
– another way of being
Coming and going
– and going and coming.

Brummie continuous limo on the Bristol Road.

Do the birds hear the same?
Oblivious perhaps?
He cheeps, they twitter, she chirrups, he squeaks.

Ambulance siren.
Another parallel universe.

Voices of the Earth

Whilst I was thinking about what to choose to observe and write about I constructed a little sculpture out of twigs – certainly a change from my urban focus.

Then I found my ‘thing’

Some life in a dark and dying space
Some life in a dark and dying space

And closer still:


And the poem:

A possibility
on a breath of wind
not quite a birth
dark secret place
and if
I do
I am formed
Past giants dwarfed
pale, curvy
cream smooth, finest feathering
Still – silent growth
Am I edible, I hope not
Formed out of decay
I don’t relish
My own.

On a poetry workshop at Woodbrooke

I haven’t posted for an age and was reminded that this would be a good use of my blog whilst I’m away on holiday at the Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham. Hopefully it will mean that all the amazing creativity that I’m hoping for won’t get forgotten in the weeks to come.

So this is the first evening of ‘Voices of the Earth’ – messing about with arty stuff to get inspiration in different ways. I headed out into the walled garden and by the lake in the sunshine on arrival – beautiful.

World Book Night

Ventnor Library hosted a World Book Night and as ever, an enjoyable evening. I picked Confessions of a GP, a light-hearted volume of short observations of the ways of the world (well patients) by Dr Benjamin Daniels.

We did some reading and swopping. I read from Stoner – a Vintage Classic – by John Williams, a piece from fairly early in the story when Stoner is asked to voice an opinion on a Shakespeare sonnet, and he’s physically so overwhelmed he can hardly speak. Seemed fitting since 23rd April is taken as Shakespeare’s birthday I’m told.

Someone read from Roger Deakin’s Waterlog and I have that now on my list to acquire or quite possibly borrow from Ventnor library. It’s fantastic to be read too and to discover another novelist that I’ve not come across before.

I’ve also been given The Help by Kathryn Stockett to read.

So all in all a superb evening.

Bus travel and writing

After a bit of an internal struggle in coming to terms with not being able to drive, I can see the positive aspects now. Main one is on my writing, what an opportunity to hear and see, to be in a moment and to share a bit of yourself with others and they with you. I feel a poem coming on, still germinating and will have to remain in that state until my marking mountain subsides……

Eyesight is a precious thing, not enough eyesight is a different precious thing.

Review: Ghost Town by Catronia Troth

I couldn’t have read this book at a better time for two reasons:

1. I read a new chapter of my own book to my writers’ group and one of the comments came back was that I had two strong central characters and in doing so the sympathy for both characters is diluted. Food for thought. So when I read this book, it had two such characters – and that’s exactly what happened. Sometimes the voices of Baz and Maia are quite similar, both on the edge of belonging but both forced into the centre of the action (riots, racism, homelessness).

2. It’s a great book though and resonates with me as my own book has rioting as a kind of historical backdrop. Mine is historical, this is for real – the book set in the early 1980s and it’s been useful to remember the features of the riots then – often racial and violent – so perhaps different to the riots of two summers ago – but maybe the roots – inequality and poverty – are similar. Glad to have read it.

Ghost Story e-book link

Have all the words – consider the shape

It felt like a huge achievement to have written a whole novel and I knew that editing (in a strategic rather than nit-picking way) was my next stage.

There are so many choices to make. I’ve printed out 130+ pages and shuffled them so that I have contained Amy, Mel and Amy’s Nan pieces. When I read them in this way I can see the development and changes in each character, I can see the shifting and adjusting that the characters do between each other.

The teenage voices are those I’m most interested in, so it’s likely that Nan will fall by the wayside in having her own voice. I’ve poured over a timeline, producing a table that tracks the major events for each character and at the same time provides me with a helicopter view of my book.

I seem to be discarding as much as I keep. The jewels will shine more brightly without clutter.

Council House Kids or Tower Block Amy

More than two weeks have gone by since finishing the first draft of my novel. I’ve rearranged some of the chapters to fit the timeline, inserted some page numbering, printed out all 137 pages (83,019 words) – it’s an amazing wadge of paper. It looks like the possibility of a real book for the first time.

I could shuffle the whole lot up so that chapters in the voice of Amy, Mel and Amy’s Nan are separate mini books or maybe a whole chapter for each. I will probably do that to check for consistency in voice for each main character. Then re-shuffle back into the timeline order – we’ll see.

But first, I’m reading through each chapter – marking up where I need to increase/decrease pace, provide a sense of place, insert some social history (perhaps) – not sure about this last element.

I’m enjoying this as much as writing. It’s going to be a superb Christmas….

Writings and scribblings about and from my published fiction and chit chat about literature.