Ink, Sweat and Tears: two poems and an interview // prayer and poetry in Monastic life

Earlier this month, I was interviewed by Ink, Sweat and Tears. It was wonderful to hear from them, and share news of our respective years – it’s been a strange, busy, and wonderful year post-masters, and I’m only just starting to accept that I am no longer a student. My studies are more informally focused on theology at present, and I’m still fascinated by devotional and spiritual poetry.

If this doesn’t scare you off, you can read two of the devotional poems from my master’s dissertation, as well as the interview, here – these are two of my favourite poems and I am very proud to share them with the world.

As I write this, I’m brainstorming potential workshop ideas, and thinking about the practical applications of poetry (and yes, I’m aware of the heavy burden of critical theory surrounding those words…) Ten days ago I was commissioned as a member of the Holywell Community, a new monastic community in Abergavenny, South Wales. Over the next year, I will live an adapted version of the Rule of St Benedict, praying, living in community, and working with the churches here. Abergavenny is surrounded by the Brecon Beacons, and every morning I walk to prayers in an ancient monastic church, through an old glacier-carved landscape rich in language and culture and faith.

The reality of monastic living is that as poetic as it sounds on paper, day-to-day life is often more prosaic. Dinner has to be cooked, bins taken out, hymns chosen, chairs stacked. If you look for poetry, you may be disappointed in its absence. It must be grown and lived and breathed. Made an office of the day. If I learnt one thing from long nights before deadlines, it was that blessed few can hear poetry on angelic tongues in the air like Rilke; most of us have to work at it. And all this, being true of poetry, is also true of faith. These days, I find to talk of one is to talk of the other. Prayer and poetry are the same motion. I only hope that the pattern of daily prayer here will also inspire me to write.

I’m still interested in freelance editing and developing my critical practice, but for the moment these aspects of my work will be focused on the Holywell Community; our blog can be found here if you are interested in following our work in Abergavenny. I also occasionally edit pieces for the excellent Cam Writes blog, run by writer, podcaster, filmmaker and critic Cameron McCulloch-Keeble; Cam reviews and writes about film, gaming and other media, and his blog is well worth your time.

Until next time, may words serve you well, and you serve the Word…

(shhh. I’m trying)

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MA Creative Writing: term two

It seems I have done half of a degree since I last posted here -apologies to the various friends who have asked me if I was ever going to update my blog again! I’ve been hesitant to post poetry because most of my writing this year – *good writing that is – has been for assessments, and I wasn’t sure if TurnItIn (?) would allow work that had already been on the internet. (Not a feeble excuse. Nope.)

I hope to have a few more things to post here over the next few months, especially as I’m making a half-hearted attempt at NaPoWriMo (I’m counting editing as valid for 1 day’s work). Over the next few weeks, I will be reading poetry at two events in Norwich, which any local readers are cordially invited to attend. Tomorrow you will be able to find me at Café Writers, supporting the winners of their 2014 Pamphlet Competition, Jay Bernard and Jonathan Morley. I’m very excited (and not a little nervous) about this, and hearing excerpts from Jay and Jonathan’s work! This opportunity has come to me as a result of the Ink, Sweat and Tears Scholarship, and I am very grateful for the support and friendship of Kate Birch, who endows the IS&T scholarship. The second event I will be reading at is the launch night of the UEA Poetics festival, which is traditionally planned, run and performed at by the MA cohort. The reading is called Between Us, and will be at 7pm on the 22nd of April at the Moosey Art Gallery in Norwich. I’m very proud to be reading alongside so many talented poets. Turn up early, grab seats, and in five years you can claim to have heard them before they became famous. 

As this is, hypothetically, my online portfolio, I’ll close this with a poem I wrote for last term’s workshop.


 

Pool Dreams

At first, I was a timid chick
in the water. I swam determined

up-lane, rested: hatchlings
tire quick, they have soft down.

But soft was no good
with watching eyes. So I changed

became an eel, all shape
and sinew, and for a while

anger cut swathes in the water,
and I was fast and sleek.

But there was too much thought
in being an eel, so I began

to dream of being a woman,
and woman I looped bare arms

along the lane markers, and their tension
cut. And I could not do it.

So last I became a sea turtle.
Let my hands drop in the water and fuse

into trapezoid flippers,
my head dip in the stroke,

and the carapace close
round my head and back.

Full changed, though I kept
it quiet, barely above surface, and

so powerful. It tore into my gut
to heave myself out, and revolve back

into my own skin, which had started
to forget itself.