Clare's BlogMy weekly blog
The older I get, the more I want to dwell within my inner world. It is such a colourful and exotic landscape! The doorway to it is like Narnia’s. There is no knowing what the weather will be like. My poems are like postcards sent from within. I had no map until I started this latest assignment for my MA in Creative Writing. I worked out the main routes through my creative self. With each pathway, I drew the contours to show the highs and lows, described the scenery either side and marked the small roads that link to the next way. I remembered the final essay I did for my BA in English Literature in the mid 70s on Popular Culture and the Oral Tradition. That is why I still want authentic voices speaking in my poems. Yet these voices embody a place – they are inextricably linked in my memory and imagination. Nelly Basher, who I knew as a child, is the sharp westerly wind flattening the gorse on the Cornish cliff top. So I am writing word maps of my life. I can begin to see where I have been and why. Yet memory is not linear. My inner world knows no time or sequencing. My assignment is written in lines and paragraphs but just as the words are set down they fade or reform or float off in my inner land. If I am lucky the next poem might just capture the scent.
I have just handed in an essay – the first one in my life I really enjoyed! Studying at 62 is brilliant! * Why? I have time and headspace. I use my lifetime of English Literature, art galleries and concerts. There is no pressure, so low anxiety. I know why I am doing the MA so I connect myself fully to it.
It is also a surprise. I signed up for Creative Writing in Poetry without thinking it would probably mean writing an essay at some point. I am back in love with cultural theory. I went to the library shelf and picked up all the last books in the row – the ones that came out since I last studied. I have new ideas to talk about with friends – I had a seminar with one on T S Elliot’s Burnt Norton (Four Quartets), another explained Psychogeography in a cafe and a whole dinner party explored Post Modernism.
Then there is my poetry. It is a harvest of my life in imagery. There is nothing more affirming than expressing the richness of life’s experiences. I have focus and direction – my poetry is taking me forward to new appreciations. I am challenging myself and creating new thinking. Now, so much of the dread and humiliation, tied to our schooling in the 60s, has fallen away.
Any negatives? Yes I live with knowing that my brain can no longer encompass the complexity of thoughts it once could. Mind you, that makes writing the structure of an essay easier and simpler. I can only work for so many hours a day before getting tired, so I need to plan my time well – 36 years of work helps me to to do that.
Learning is so important. It is a fundamental part of being human – we need to achieve. My health and mood have improved. This part of my life has a clear purpose. Writing poetry celebrates the wonder and mystery; at this stage of life I can give my full self to it. What a privilege!
*I have this life because I have a work pension.
It’s raining. You are stressed, feeling low. Your boss comes by, This work is brilliant! You saved the day. The sun comes out. You smile. The next task goes like clockwork.
Being positive works. Playing to people’s strengths works. Recent writings against this, don’t understand it. They say it makes people arrogant or complacent.
Most people have an inner critic, voices of their father, teacher or older sibling. These are ideas about themselves they have taken on board before they could choose. They roll them out in their heads on ticker tape every day. You don’t know what you are doing… who do you think you are? British culture encourages it. We hate a boaster. Then we get that terrible feeling of dread or panic. This is fear.
These are barriers to change. They keep us down. They keep us where we are; stuck.
I have never changed out of fear. To develop, I must live in the moment. I need energy and openness, a positive frame of mind. Being positive frees someone up. It takes the boulders out of the stream, let’s the water flow again.
Being positive helps us feel we can do it. Optimism gives us a rush. It pushes us into the present.
Then we can tackle the hard things. We can change or accept or move on. Being positive gets us in the state that lets us see our negatives and do something about them.
I love co-creating and when it works well, good ideas appear, grow and blossom. They go in loops back to the main thread, and each loop helps to shape the whole thing. Like drawing a Christmas tree from the bottom up. Then we can add decorations: the threads of lights between each layer, the tinsel to give sparkle and the special idea to go at the top. Effective co-creating needs a good team, lots of goodwill, willingness to give and receive gifts and plenty of seasonal cheer.
‘I work with an individual manager to look at how they can do their job better,’ I found myself saying at a recent networking event about Marketing. Somehow it didn’t sound interesting enough to explain the fascinating coaching sessions we have. ‘I work creatively with them,’ I added desperately trying to put it into words. ‘I support them’, it still didn’t hit the spot, ‘it is all about relationship’. So what else could I have said? I listen really hard? I give my full attention? I keep a very high opinion of them so that they feel able to look at the difficult things? I keep an open heart? Love? All these are true. I try to be myself and give the best of myself. We set up a good rapport and through that magical things can happen. In the end, it is about being fully there for someone else and, of course, trust.
Fanshen, the play by David Hare he wrote about in the Saturday’s Guardian Review a couple of weeks ago, spoke directly to my experience when I went to see it at the Arts Centre in York in the mid 1970s. I was living in a political commune with other students and graduates, reading Althusser and Gramsci and trying to change my capitalist and patriarchal ideology. We all were. To us, the play explained how common sense was formed and how we needed to completely rethink our ideas and feelings if we were to challenge society. The play was about peasants in China undergoing Fanshen – it was in fact the time of the Cultural Revolution when unspeakable things were happening in China but we were trying to understand and enact complete change to our way of thinking. This meant that our commune would become somewhere where we could live revolutionary lives and not just do revolutionary acts. Hours and hours of reading theory, understanding the complexity of hegemony and how it is reproduced. Then we talked about the ways we needed to change deep within ourselves. Such zeal lead to one person having a break down, others having to leave the commune. Monogamy was bourgeois, so we started multiple relationships. They key to it all was honesty and talking things out. Endless meetings. There was no escape. You had to be vigilant against slipping back. What exciting times. So much brain work, sex, beer and politics. Seeing David Hare’s play helped us to feel we were the revolutionary vanguard in the new sense – we were living the dream. Cutting edge – nearly literally! Passion, intellect, class politics, feminism, we were at the forefront of it all and we were powered up. Nothing could stop us – until our own hearts and emotions could not keep up and started to crack and break…..
A primary school is such a fantastic part of the community. As I dropped my granddaughter off today, I watched the different people bringing their precious children to the same playground, heading for the same place, with the same issues on their mind. We were all shapes and sizes, parents, grandparents, carers and older siblings, different ethnicities, religions, cultures and types and that was just the adults. There were kisses, tears and complaints, last words of advice, reminders, shouts and caresses. One little boy asked his dad why his hair always stuck up, ‘it just needs cutting’ was the reply. Another child forgot to put a wrapper in the bin so her mother said, ‘love you – but I would love you more if you would do as you were told.’ Human life was there in all its glory and I came away in love with ordinary people.