As I gear up to finish the Firebird Writers’ Group website along with my WordPress journal I receive a request from Alice Watson at the Poetry Society to produce lesson materials based on the Young Foyles poetry winners. It seems always the case that work attracts work, but I’m not complaining. There are some fine poems, my favourite being Helen Wood’s ‘Appointments’:
Contains strong language.
The first doctor insists that my relationship
with food is to my self what a seed is to a fruit,
that my eating habits are the moon and all
my life’s catastrophes are the tide. The second doctor
makes a diagnosis I can’t pronounce.
My father tells me I will fuck up my life
if I don’t get a grip, which is all
strictly medical terms. I want
a perfect life that everyone is jealous of.
I want all the water I touch to turn
into pearls, I want a miserable life
that everyone is jealous of.
Summer is to me
what a stained glass window is to a fist.
I should have prefaced this poem with an apology,
to my family and to the NHS
because there is nothing you can say to a poet
and be certain it won’t be set loose again.
The trigger warning about ‘strong’ language is comical, and surely not from the poet. I wonder which is stronger, My father tells me I will fuck up my life / if I don’t get a grip or Summer is to me / what a stained glass window is to a fist. Perhaps the father should read Larkin.
It’s a remarkable poem for one so young, with the first doctor (of what?) usurping the poet’s place, the humour at the end of the second stanza, the contrasting desire for recognition seemingly at the heart of the eating disorder, the jokey belated preface in the penultimate stanza trying to knit things together with half-rhymes, the pithy, punchy ending which makes it an extended sonnet… I could go on, and hope I can convey some of this in my ‘learning resource’. I never much liked lesson plans, doing best with spontaneity, and in lesson plans never liked the fashion for gimmickry, which tends to distract from the learning.
On another pressing matter, for simplicity’s sake I’ve now decided to combine the Pagespinner travel and poetry journals and revive the Mandevilles’ Travels idea. This means editing and retrofitting a lot of entries, some of which (the Sri Lankan ones) have yet to be written.
Watch this space—or rather, the space on the right.