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City of Blinding Lights

Those of you paying attention will know I was away this last weekend: some of the scheduled work has suffered (no poetry this week, sorry) but in the main everything has been surprisingly well-organised. The stuff that should have appeared will do so at the weekend. I’m only a day behind on the Playlists. Frankly, this is the best it has ever been. No really, no hyperbole; a new and interesting crossroads has been reached.

Everything is coming together: a poetry collection I can be genuinely proud of in final stages of re-write. Poetry that is a completely accurate and honest representation of what I am becoming in reality. There’s even a short story waiting in the wings, amazingly apposite for current circumstances. With my objective hat on, none of this is really just luck or coincidence either. Years of hard work is coming to fruition.

This is the consequence of looking upward, forward to what could be possible.

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A lot of times, it is easy to self-convince that targets are being hit: however, if nothing comes from your work but rejection, is that really a perception worth hanging onto? It’s the ephemeral, mystical value of ‘polish’ which I’ve spoken about before: something that you truly believe is as good as it gets, until back it comes from someone whose  subsequently published selections you neither grasp nor understand.

It takes a lot of hard work to re-write things you were convinced were perfect before, I’ll tell you. Except, there will come a point somewhere in that process where you’ll grasp an inescapable truth: you were deluding yourself. It’s never an intentional lie, but evolves from understanding that we all improve, over time, with practice. Writing, as we have also discussed before, is no different to exercising, or learning to play a musical instrument, or drawing.

The more you push yourself, the better things get.

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This week therefore is doing this with pieces of work I’m already supremely proud of. The unexpected bonus from this has also been the emergence of some new pieces that are making me genuinely rather excited: creativity will inevitably spawn more of the same, often in directions that are totally unforseen or surprising. Then one just has to try and keep the momentum going.

This will be me, making sure that’s exactly what happens in the next week.

Negotiations and Love Songs

Really, this shouldn’t be being written, I should be getting ready to go away for some much-needed time off, except this week’s thrown up a lot of moments where my plans going forward have altered in both scope and significance. As a result, there is something that needs to be said before I go away: belief in yourself is, undoubtedly a part of the deal with ambition that never gets talked about enough.

I mentioned on Wednesday that I had an evening class/workshop that was being looked forward to, and it transpires that there was a lot more to the evening than I had initially envisioned. It was so successful, in fact, that if the organisation answers my email because I can’t find a link on their website,  a monthly amount  will be thrown down to go do more interesting things on Wednesday evenings in the future.

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You have to be careful when people are being paid to be nice to you, of course, that their affirmations and responses can be somewhat tainted by the fact that if they’re honest with you, that might not be the answer that you want to hear. Wednesday night, undoubtedly, can be seen in two distinct lights. It was in parts an enormous ego boost. In other parts it was a testament to how far I’ve come as a person.

Somewhere in the middle was a set of writing exercises, the opportunity to just think about writing and not worry about chores or demands from others. That was perhaps the most important thing of all, at the end of the day. Whatever else may emerge from the experience, I held my own with a group of people whose only experience of me was that session. I didn’t fuck anything up. That’s a massive bonus.

The truth of the evening’s success therefore can be distilled from these parts.

NICEjazz

It is a foolish woman who does not learn from everything that is thrown at her. Sometimes, undoubtedly, that takes some time to either register or absorb, but in the end being critical of your own actions is one of the most important life skills that can ever be learnt. Better is the state we all should be striving for regardless of whatever anybody else says needs to be done. Being successful does not mean you can be selfish.

The arrogance I see from those who clearly feel that success has granted them some kind of absolution from improvement is the most difficult part of a life online. How I’m choosing to deal with that is twofold: life the best life possible, whilst simultaneously maintaining healthy levels of cynicism and realism. It all works fine if internal balance is maintained, and that’s the plan moving forward.

Any true path to enlightenment, let’s face facts, is never going to be an easy one.

School’s Out

Here’s a thing. I’m off to what I suppose should be referred to as an Evening Class tonight, and am rather excited at the prospect.

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I wish there were more money to be able to do stuff like this with greater frequency, but it’s just not practical, when a London-based course could cost the equivalent of the monthly food budget. I’m already saving as it is for Mslexicon this year, and that means making some harsh decisions in the next couple of weeks as how everything is funded. I’m already making all the savings possible to let this happen.

However, there is an ulterior motive to doing a couple of hours on the High Street tonight: this venue has an open mic in two weeks, which will be a perfect opportunity in which to take some problematic poetry with me for performance later in the year. It also gives me a focus for the two days writing time I’ve booked at the local Arts Collective next month, as part of the county’s Book Festival.

It allows an opportunity to extend experience to other places.

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All of these venues are on my doorstep, so travel costs are minimal: the two day ‘hot desk’ opportunity is free as well, so I would have been very remiss to have not taken that one up. More importantly than that, of course, the capacity for networking exceeds all other benefits: if you want to be know, you do unfortunately have to put yourself about, and until I gain Banksy levels of notoriety, that’s a given.

It’s the part of this job description I’ve always struggled with, with social anxiety always there as a reminder that you’re never as prepared as you think is enough. However, each time something like this happens, undoubtedly things get easier. That whole thing about practice isn’t just restricted to exercise, after all. Doing something every day has considerable benefit in both brain and body.

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I have a t-shirt for the evening all picked. I will take something pre-written as a starting point to improve. I’ve packed business cards and favourite pencils. All that needs to happen now is to get through the rest of the day unscathed and this will be the first of a number of small rewards, to myself, for distinctive progress made. After all, even the most hardened of professionals benefits from some quality ‘them’ time.

I’ll report on the evening Friday, via a blog.

Leaders of the Free World

This week, a major part of my February output has changed. For this month’s Big Submission [TM] the plan originally had been to repurpose what is, in my heart, the more personal set of poems from a selection of three possible entries. Except, there’s been a bit of a lightbulb moment after a week of staring at stuff with no real idea of how I can rebuild those moments, in some cases from scratch.

So, on Monday, time made me walk away and re-approach a selection that… well, is emotionally quite difficult to read. It was the sense of dread this collection radiated that had kept it untouched for some time, but in terms of salvageability and improvement, this was the best bet. My third selection has neither cohesion or narrative flow and needs to be completely reconstructed.

Instead, this was the better bet.

It was hard work. I’ve cried more in the last 48 hours than has been the case for weeks. Mentally, I am exhausted, but what now exists is a piece of work that I am genuinely very proud of. More importantly, this is the piece that, regardless of what other people decide, will see the light of day in some form as a printed work before the year is out. Self-publishing, on whatever format, will happen in 2020.

It also puts into stark relief exactly how much work has been done in the last year or so, and how little grasp there is of what exists and in what form. I’ve taken the step this morning of archiving the key files off to backups in two seperate locations, not just on my hard drive. You can never be too careful, after all. Then, there really needs to be some time to sort out exactly what has been stuffed where.

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There’s an early Spring Clean coming, I think, a lot to do with this recent outpouring of emotional pressure. Many things can now be thrown away, for good, no longer required to move pace of my progress forward. They were, it occurs to me now, simply support structures anyway. Now I’m confident and comfortable enough to stand alone, none of it is required any longer. I can move forward, considerably lighter.

This really is the best work I have ever written.

2020 Week Six Poetry: Defend

Stream of consciousness poetry is very useful, but can ultimately become frustrating if you charge off down a dead end with no idea how to get back to where you began. There’s a bit of that in this, it must be said, but a lot more of the hangover from going full-on physically last month. None of the poetry I’ve written in this style thus far is wasted, when all is said and done, but this is not a particularly stand-out piece.

However, I can see a time when I might come and steal some of the moments from this and repurpose them for other ends. In that regard, playing word association football with a subject matter has definite mileage as means for kick-starting my brain.

Might do some love poetry next week, as I’m off FOR AN ACTUAL POETRY WORKSHOP on Wednesday: more on that tomorrow…


Defend

Strike forward, neophyte, heed drum’s hypnotic heart refrain: before us enemy entrenched, resistance obvious, sustained.

Clarion call, weaponised obstruction dismantled, opposition routed, positions reversed; push headlong, together stronger.

War room’s fighting, dominance descending, shove armies where sons line breaks, overrun; full retreat summarily complete.

Tide turning, Testudo formation; defend attacked, have their shield, battle’s two-step reinforcing conditions, ultimate confrontation.

Our metaphors, constant engagement; kinship beyond borders, only existence worth enmity’s peace, little death exhaled, repeats.


EX/WHI :: Part 23

Previous Part :: Next Part


Arrival Plus One

The night before they won, she realised that nothing would ever be the same again.

Lying awake, Ami watches the man sleeping next to her on his own camp-bed with a mixture of disbelief and reassurance. He’s just as scared as I am, when all is said and done. At least now there’s no embarrassment or worry admitting that in public. Chris and her had talked for several hours after dinner was done, until their plates and uneaten food had vanished from in front of them. It had been taken as a prompt that their ‘captors’ wanted them in beds, a second one having been provided next to that which they’d both slept in previously.

She’d woken as was nearly always the case when her internal body clock hit 7am, to find that their world had been significantly reduced in size and depth: their note-taking space remained but new dividers had appeared: a single sofa and table, plus chairs were shifted against one wall, with what were clearly washing cubicles added opposite. It should worry her that nothing was constant any more but instead Ami’s brain is surprisingly willing to accommodate alteration.

Today is when we are to be tested. Chris had been surprisingly frank on her return from the bathroom: they were both now comfortable with the alien presences that had manifested within them, enough joint sanctity to be confident that this experiment, in whatever form, would be no different from a planned training operation. That meant at some point they’d be provided with equipment: as the thought manifests, so do two large wooden crates at the bottom of each bed.

Now she’s up, looking through what is being provided: fresh clothing and food, no new shoes or backpacks, so they’ll be expected to reuse what was provided yesterday. Chris is stirring and she takes it as a prompt, out of bed and into one of the two cubicles where towels hang next to a shower unit that switches on the moment she’s naked. There’s no need for temperature control either, water just pleasantly hot enough as to not be scalding but damn close, and Ami smiles to herself.

My captors have thought of everything.

There’s no fear either that her partner might take a leaf out of a fictional secret agent’s play-book and come join her: he might be built like 007, but Special Agent Chambers possesses considerably more respect for her than James Bond ever did for his partners.

He’s now also awake and showering…


Previous Part :: Next Part

 

Walk Away

I finished the last portion of my formal Mental Health Champion training at the end of January, but all of that ended up being overshadowed by RED January Fundraising for Mind. At the end of the month, exhaustion was real. It’s taken a week to get everything back to something approaching normal: during that time it became apparent that this year, I wasn’t really comfortable contributing publicly to Time to Talk Day.

That came as more relief than surprise, if truth be told.

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The last couple of years this date in February has been marked by me trying to be honest about my own mental health journey. Last year however, a lot of the perceptions that personally existed around those feelings was quite significantly altered by counselling. It’s taken this long to really begin the process of unpacking all of the baggage that’s been trailing behind me, in some cases for my entire adult life.

I’d even planned to try and get out to support an actual, real-world event this week, but when it came down to the day something else came up. It too was mental health related, and I made a decision: this was the moment to do my talking elsewhere and not online. It’s a measure of how faith in my own ability has improved in the last twelve months that this was automatically the place that it made more sense to be.

It’s also cemented my desire to become a Mental Health First Aider.

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The course is not cheap and I suspect it will take me time to save, then it’s about finding the right time and location in which to take part. However, as I got so much from the MHF’s Mindfulness course when I first took it (you’ll find the details here) that it seems the logical extension from that initial process to pursue. It’s also a decent bet that my lived experience of mental health issues will become useful in training.

However, as a result of this revelation I have provided information to Mind which means that, at some point in the future, I may be called upon for interviews with the media. This might seem odd considering what has just taken place, but there is method in the madness. I am happy being interviewed, and a fair amount of front-facing public work will be taking place via the reading of poetry.

If I can read poetry to an audience, I can talk about mental health to others.

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The difference, I now realise, about contributing this year was literal exhaustion. I need to be both physically and mentally awake to do the job justice. Yet again, all of this is a bigger process, learning and expanding my remits across multiple spheres. As confidence and ability increase, so does the capacity to do good and help wherever the need arises. I like this new me, so much better than the person I was before.

There is new purpose I fully intend to learn from going forward.