reflections on 2017

Sunday 31 December 2017

Thoughts on the past year:

2017 was a busy year at work, the winter was long and wet and gloomy, and this might be part of the reason why I didn’t get as much written as I’d hoped. There were achievements this year, and sadness too, as I said goodbye to my black cat of seventeen years. The arrival of a new ginger and white fluff bundle helps redirect the love.

I’m slowly becoming more confident to read my work to others. The first steps on this journey began at the very end of 2016 in a writing workshop, and then continued into 2017. I began recording my own readings and posting these with some of my writing.

In November and December of 2016 I took part in a writing workshop. I was initially quite nervous once I realised that many of these were people who wrote for a living, people who had been published, and so I saw them as “real writers”, and I wondered whether it was really the group for me. But they were welcoming and encouraging, and I stuck with it. The plan was to gather ideas and information about one particular day, and then we would meet a few days later and write.

We met in a small de-consecrated chapel and wrote quietly for a few hours. My result was in a piece of work that came quickly and fluently, and the form of it surprised me, a hybrid piece, a poem interspersed with brief pieces of prose. It. It was as if I could hear different ‘voices’ taking turns to speak through the poem.

Version 2

When it came time for us to read our work (if we wanted to), I knew I had to overcome my nervousness. When it came to my turn, my hands were shaking, my voice was breaking, and I stopped and started over, reading right through to the end. It felt like the scariest, most vulnerable thing I’d ever done. Feedback was positive, and I was pleased with myself for sharing it.

But after listening to the others in the group, I realised most people were writing prose, I wondered if I should be doing that. I tried re-writing it completely as prose, but I missed the sound and shapes of the original piece. So I rewrote it again, bringing some of the poetic elements back into the work. We met again early in 2017 after we had all spent time reworking our writing, for further feedback.

I enjoyed this experience of working as part of a group, and beginning to overcome my nervousness in reading aloud. This was also a lesson in trusting myself, and learning not to be too influenced by others. It was a struggle to finish this piece, and it held my attention during the first few months of 2017. I was so engrossed in the initial focus on the moon that I continued working on a series of moon poems “this imaginal space”.

A weekend workshop with a different group in February continued to boost my confidence, with my writing, and provided another opportunity to read aloud in front of at least 50 people. Nervousness was shifting into excitement and I read one piece without hesitation, without fear. I was buzzing afterwards with the joy of it.

In the last few weeks of 2017 I took a series of art classes. I challenged myself to try the thing I’ve always wanted to do but never felt I was any good at – drawing. It was a revelation! I discovered that with the right tutor, techniques modelled and explained, drawing was in fact something I could do. We explored different media, and I fell in love with oil sticks (oil paint in solid form). The visual arts have always held a special place in my heart, and if I can actually create in that form as well I will be a happy woman.

I’ve spent the last two weeks clearing the spare room to make a creative space for writing, for drawing and painting. I’m naturally a bit of a hoarder and I’ve spent hours and hours sorting and throwing things away. I’ve found a few scraps of poems written in past years and buried among receipts and banks statements and other domestic paperwork. One in particular gives me an insight into my feelings all the way back in 2004 (some 13-14 years ago!!!) just a couple of years after I had begun living in my current home. It seemed that I was finding the green I was surrounded with somewhat overwhelming and that I was questioning my ability to describe it. What it did show was my desire to write was surfacing again. Now that very green is at the heart of my work.

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I took to Instagram like a fish to water in 2016, and in 2017 it continued to be a source of inspiration and another forum for sharing with the world. A friend is encouraging me to try podcasting or youtube.

I continue to wonder about self publishing, and I’ve explored different layout options including photographs. I’m wondering now whether any of my own artwork will be good enough to include ??

My thanks to everyone who has taken time to read my work here, and for your encouragement and positive comments.

I hope 2018 finds us all well and looking forward to another creative year.

Version 2

Take care

Claire xx

December 


relax, walk, watch the sun set 

It’s that time of year – two more weeks of work – then the summer holiday. This is the time of year when I have time to slow down, and reflect. It’s the time of year when I used to explore new ideas, try out new pursuits. 

What I’m proudest of this year is that I’ve made time, taken time, for personal interests throughout the year – specially the latter half of this year. I’ve started drawing and learning to paint. I’ve noticed that as I shift into this visual world my writing has gracefully taken a back seat – but I’m sure it’s going to surface again soon. 

What I’d love for next year is to find a way to combine paintings and text into artworks that balance both sides of my soul. 

discoveries and intentions – reflections on 2016

I’ve taken up the suggestion to reflect on this year. I hadn’t intended to, but once I read Michelle W’s suggestions on The Daily Post, it immediately seemed such a helpful thing to do.

discoveries
This year is the first time I’ve really committed to writing and what I’m most proud of is the amount I’ve written throughout the year, and that I’ve stuck with it. Although its interesting to note that my posting peaked mid-year, I wonder why…?

I like getting feedback – and responding to others’ work. From being initially so hesitant about posting anything, this year has seen me grow in confidence, and much of that is due to the positive feedback I’ve received. So thank you to all who took the time to write something to me – it means more than you might realise.

Realising that getting only a few likes on a piece doesn’t mean its un-liked – it may just have gone unseen.

I’m getting better at using tags, and this may help bring my work to more people.

Participating in challenges eg: “intro to poetry” (responding to daily prompt words) was indeed challenging, but also rewarding. It pushed me to explore my work, and question my habits. It provided opportunities for increased interactions with other writers.

It was interesting to look through this year’s posts, and follow the suggestion of using the ten with the most “likes” to make a wordcloud. These aren’t necessarily the ten I would have chosen – so I made two wordclouds – most likes and my choice.

intentions
Be brave and keep sharing my work with others. Make the most of opportunities eg writing workshops. Set up regular writing cafe sessions with a friend who writes. Send some pieces out to magazines etc – and/or self publish?

I’ve been working through this year’s crop of poems – and its interesting how I can work on crafting these now – much more objective – more able to think yes-that stays, no-wrong word-change it, no-that doesn’t belong-cut completely.

Tidy up the photography section of my blog – and add more to this. It was meant to be a stand-alone category, but I found that the photos I took became integrated into my writing – so I need to think about whether I even keep it. I still need a photo of a “list of birds”.

And – I realised I never did write something for Bowie – this may well come early January next year – “its been a year …” – listening to Blackstar and thinking about the lyrics eg: “spirit rose a metre and stepped aside”, “you know I’ll be free”.

I welcome the new year – I wonder what it will bring?

 

the visitor : myth, traditions and interpretation

With reference to the poem “the visitor”:

Myth:
In Māori mythology the fantail was responsible for the presence of death in the world. Maui, thinking he could eradicate death by successfully passing through the goddess of death, Hine-nui-te-po, tried to enter the goddess’s sleeping body through the pathway of birth. The fantail, warned by Maui to be quiet, began laughing and woke Hine-nui-te-po, who was so angry that she promptly killed Maui.

Tradition:
In some traditions, the fantail is regarded as “a harbinger of death when seen inside in a house”.
(Kelly Keane. ‘Ngā manu – birds – Birds associated with death’,
Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Sep-15)

Interpretation:
I remember that my own interpretation at the time I experienced this feathered visitor, was less that the presence of this little bird foretold a literal death, but more that it came as a confirmation of the end of a relationship and the changes that were to come. Still, it was a death of sorts.

When emotions were raw, when change was inevitable, this visitor from the natural world somehow seemed to be an acknowledgement, and a reassurance.

Visitors from the wild-world:
This little bird was not the only animal visitor I had during this time – the other was a possum.

I was living in a semi-rural area, near bush, but I had never in five years seen or heard a possum near the house. And then, one night, returning to what was still my home for the time-being, after spending time with friends who had offered me a room in their flat, I parked the car and walking to the gate, there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. It was looking straight at me. I was surprised, but I remember greeting it, asking “What are you doing here?” Of course, there was no answer beyond its silent presence. And I felt that was its purpose – to simply be there with me in that moment.

Days passed and I moved out to live in a flat in the centre of town. I carried on with life, putting on a brave face, and clinging to my misplaced hope that this might be temporary, that there might be a return to the way things were.

One night not that long after, coming home from a night out with friends, I parked the car and there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. Again surprised, again confronted. Here in the middle of the city I was face to face with a wild creature. (I even caught myself wondering if it could be the same one). And just as with the fantail, it felt as though my decision was being affirmed, that I had made the right decision, no matter how painful it was.

Each time, I was alone. Each time, I was reminded of my aloneness, but it felt as if I was being reminded that I had the strength to cope. There were so many days and nights when I felt as though my world was collapsing, had in fact collapsed. I felt alone, adrift, abandoned and the pain was palpable. Hearts do break, and there is no relief.

One of the few things that gave me strength was knowing that the wild world had crossed the threshold, had stepped in to my time and space to be present with me. Quite possibly it stopped me going completely off the rails over the following months.

© Claire Griffin 2016

reflection on 3 day quote challenge

Re-reading these three quotes – I notice they have something in common – the theme of “entering”.

Light enters through the crack, in the words of the songwriter, revealing beauty in imperfection.

Fox enters the dream and mind of the poet, a visceral metaphor representing the imaginative, creative process.

Colour and love enter the painter’s room, bringing memory and inspiration.

 

Interesting… I wonder what I would discover if I chose three more quotes – but I’d need to put the idea of a common theme out of mind. It could easily influence my choices.

 

reflection on introtopoetry challenge

Warning: This is a long post. Self-reflection and analysis exploring the results of the eight poems written in response to this challenge. Please feel free to enter if you have the time and the interest  🙂

The WordPress introtopoetry challenge – well – I didn’t finish all ten. Life and work got in the way. When I began the challenge I was interested to see whether I could write in response to the prompts – and was pleased that I could. This confirms what I’ve discovered over the last few months – I don’t need lightening to strike in order to write. I can call on my experience and imagination to begin, and then let the words flow.

Some of the technical terminology of poetry eludes me. It was either never learnt, or since forgotten. I’m not too worried, but if I really want to know my first place to search is my copy of “The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary” or the ubiquitous internet.

So I may not always be that precise in my poetic descriptions and analysis – but – at least I’m giving it a try :). I thought this was a good opportunity to look back at these eight poems and give some serious thought to what I was doing. Hindsight is often a very revealing tool. I’m going to choose favourite lines from each poem – and I’m wondering what that will show me.

 

1. water – haiku

I enjoyed the challenge of working within the syllable pattern of 5/7/5. I tried two or three possibilities, before settling on the “dog at the beach” scenario. The image it formed in my mind made me smile, and then remember taking my dog to the beach as a kid.

I noticed the “break/shakes” rhyme as it occurred, and later realised there was a long “ay” vowel rhyme that recurred within the first two lines – “waves, break, shakes, tail”. I think the repetition of this sound served to connect the first two lines, and the absence of it in the last line perhaps made it more effective.

None of this was a deliberate act at the time. Words will often present themselves and be chosen because they just “sound right” in the moment. Its not until later that I can look more closely and recognise what I was doing. In fact, the more I try to fit within a rhyme scheme, or a particular model of writing, the more uncomfortable I feel – because it is difficult. So it is good for me to try, to push beyond my comfort zone. I just feel that sometimes the results feel overworked, and don’t seem to have a life of their own.

I recall how as a child I was aware of the sounds of words, in the syllabic sense, recognising “chunks” of sound within words. I’m sure this helped with spelling. And now, if I have to spell an unknown or difficult word, I’ll say it aloud, listening for each syllable and almost being able to see each one, so then I can spell my way through the word.

Favourite lines:

wet dog shakes from head to tail

 

2. face – alliteration

I began by looking at a poem I wrote in January this year, and thought of “cheating” by just submitting that. But it didn’t meet the challenge of alliteration.

So I started again with the same subject, holding her image in mind and the challenge of alliteration – and started describing “black hair braided, pulled tightly back”. And there they were – b/b/b. I think “posed, poised and passionate” it a bit too “try hard” and I’m thinking of editing this, perhaps cutting “posed”. “Dark eyes…” was originally directly after the description of hair, but I moved it to the end and changed the word order to make a stronger closure.

Alliteration is something I’m comfortable with, along with internal rhymes that occur randomly in sentences, and vowel rhymes within words. I’m not that happy trying to rhyme at the end of lines, in a set pattern.

Favourite lines:

the rainbow halo frames
a flamboyant madonna of sorrows
dark eyes defined
by darker brows

 

3. friend – acrostic

This was a bit of a challenge. I started using the word “friend” itself – but it kept sounding too earnest and self-help-ish.

I changed direction using the name of a friend – Thomas. Immediately, the senses engaged, and I felt the emotion. This tiny poem wrote itself quite quickly.

Favourite lines:

turning, I see you
my open heart keeps your
memory close

 

4. journey – simile

Well – this was interesting! This challenge really confirmed that I am much more attuned to metaphor than simile. I felt the first simile I used was unnecessary, but I was trying to meet the challenge. The second simile slipped in more naturally, and I left it at that!

The topic “journey” was interesting. I was thinking quite literally at first, and as I wrote the first words “the journey begins with a thought”, suddenly thinking itself became the journey.

Favourite lines:

the journey begins
with a thought
an idea drops
and ripples spread
a multi-dimensional
map of associations

 

5. imperfect – limerick

I was interested in the prompt “imperfect” and quickly had the idea that something imperfect had its own beauty. This shifted to thoughts of self-reflection and different perspectives.

But – I couldn’t cope with the suggested limerick form – it felt like one experiment too many and decided not to try. But I took on the challenge to rhyme, arranging and rearranging until I settled on the rhyme scheme – a, b, c, d, c, d, a, b.

Favourite lines:

the torn leaf
the broken bowl
the lost belief
the damaged soul

 

6. screen – enjambment

The prompt suggestions referred to computer screens, movie screens – but somehow I began thinking of screen as a barrier between people.

Personal circumstances demanded release and I used this challenge as an opportunity to do that, then edited the raw, personal content (over 300 words) to something more focused, aiming for something that could stand alone as a considered poem rather than the original feast of personal angst.

I realised enjambement is something I’ve always done, continuing ideas – sentence or phrase – from one line to the next. Good to explore this in more detail though, and be able to give a name to the way I often write.

Favourite lines:

your words fall between us
a barrier projecting
negativity, and you are now trapped
behind a self-referential screen

 

7. flavour – found poetry

I saw the exhibition – “Frida Kahlo: Her Photos”, just a day or two after reading the next challenge was “flavour”. I sat in the exhibition and wrote the first six lines.

After that, I remembered her paintings of fruit and other foods, and the connection to flavour was reinforced. Searching for information on Mexican food, I found references to the old gods of Mexico – I hope they don’t mind the way I’ve included them here.

So I took some liberties with this challenge – reinterpreting the intent of “found poetry” by finding text and inspiration in the exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Her Photos”, in her paintings, and websites describing the food of Mexico, and using these to inform the poem.

There is a lot in this poem that I love, and wonder about re-working some of it.

Favourite lines:

six thousand photographs
taste of time and love,
and speak of a time
when you used colour
to flavour your life

 

8. pleasure – anaphora/epistrophe

Anaphora and epistrophe – the repetition of words or phrases, either at the beginning or end of a sentence, or both (when its called symploce). “the rain falls” was repeated, but not really achieving the emphasis this form usually seeks.

Attempting this form was enough of a challenge without thinking about what gave me pleasure. I remember wanting to step beyond the obvious – reading, dozing in the sun, rich conversations… I had this challenge in mind as I was driving to a meeting. Waiting in the car, wondering if the rain would stop, I realised I had two choices – battle against the rain, resenting it, complaining about it – or accepting it and being mindful of what I was experiencing. This poem about rain and the sensory experience of it was the result. Partly based on my experience that day, and part imaginative, wish-fulfillment – wondering how, if I wasn’t working, I might have immersed myself in the elements.

Favourite lines:

I walk out into the rain
barefoot, ankle deep
hands reach out
sliding over wet leaves

 

Reflections done – and interesting to discover that by choosing my favourite lines, I’ve managed to further condense each poem, and perhaps really capture the essence of each one.

Time to move on to some new works 🙂

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

22 May to 6 June 2016