The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Matron, there’s a poet in my cubicle

Children’s A&E, night shift

I’m knackered, dear reader. This week saw the beginning of my year as writer in residence at the Royal Derby Hospital (RDH). The arts team at the hospital arranged a series of back-to-back visits to give me a flavour of work in several departments. I’ve led a fairly charmed life in terms of illness and injury, so my own hospital experience is a bit limited. Even this first session gave me a wealth of stories and characters to think about.

Rob the Hat and the Troublesome Hole.

Speaking (as we almost were) of surgery, Tinker has been suffering for some time with a troublesome hole, which was attended to by Rob the Hat. Cold air no longer whistles through the back cabin, and the boat feels much more snug.

I had a brief meeting with Jane Mathieson of Time to Read and Steve Dearden of NALD: inspiring and energising figures. We are all determined to improve the relationships between writers (who like to read in libraries) and librarians (who like to use writers, but don’t always know how): so we’re setting up a training day.

Meanwhile, planning goes on for the revived Barnaby Festival – including this website. A team of dedicated and unpaid volunteers are busy programming to make this a really lively, high-quality arts festival which will jerk Macclesfield out of its cultural apathy. The new identity looks very cool.

Here we go, here we go…..

The weekend arrived and I headed for Walsall to lead a workshop, then battened down the hatches to do further work on Aching for Dick, in response to feedback from last week’s workshops. Playwriting is so different from poetry – there has to be a plot, dammit, and people talk to each other all the bloody time. The challenge is great, but the rewards when I’m making progress are great too.

Obsessive origamist Howard has moved on in his own art, from shagging pigs…. let me rephrase that, ‘ from origami representations of shagging pigs…’ to floral arrangements, which I was persuaded to model after a glass of wine. What will he try next?

A red ROSE? Oh, my mistake

It’s Mothers’ Day next Sunday. How about writing a piece (poetry, prose, whatever) about your mother? Post the finished piece in ‘comments’ and let’s see what results.

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13 comments on “Matron, there’s a poet in my cubicle

  1. Jane Munro
    March 6, 2010

    Jo like the layout, stick with it. Thanks for mentioning Barnaby. Its getting exciting!

  2. Liz Loxley
    March 7, 2010

    Jo – here’s a poem about my mother:

    Insulin Dependent

    I’m all right, my mother would say,
    navigating her way up the stairs
    at an angle of sixty degrees.

    I’m all right, struggling
    along the road with hands full
    of Tesco carrier bags.

    All right, she’d insist as she slid
    from the dining room chair (scuffed
    brown nap, fractured wicker panels).

    Trying to manoeuvre her upright.
    unco-operative as a tailor’s dummy,
    spooning ice-cream into her mouth –

    like trying to feed a young child;
    or lifting a mug of instant
    hot chocolate to her lips.

    When all else failed,
    the 999 call and familiar questions
    can you give me your name and address

    is she still conscious?
    back and forth from the kitchen, checking
    her breathing, answering.

    The welcome knock at the door:
    paramedics with vials and syringes,
    the plunge of glucagon into flesh.

    Her coming round, nauseous and
    clammy. What day is it, Iris. We’d like to
    check you over at the hospital.

    Her fear of hospitals; no I’m all right;
    so they would leave, advising me
    to keep an eye on her:

    as if I ever did anything else;
    waking each day, thinking,
    is she all right?

    • Jo Bell
      March 7, 2010

      Brilliant, Liz – thanks for starting us off and giving me more ammunition to look at before we meet!

  3. Heather Wastie
    March 7, 2010

    I love Liz’s poem. Here’s one I prepared earlier.

    A poem for my Mother

    I want to write you down,
    frame you on my piano,
    slip you into my Opus 1,
    press you gently into my scrap book.
    But more than that,
    I want to give you the fruit
    of your labour
    and embrace you in words
    I would not have
    were it not for you.

    © Heather Wastie

  4. Derek Adams
    March 8, 2010

    At Southend Poetry group the other night, a bunch of us chaps were discussing mother poems. It seemed we had all written father poems (mostly more than one) but none of us had (in our many years of poetry writing) come out with a poem about our mothers. Some poems with our mothers in them playing a supporting role, but no actual poems about out Mum!
    I did start writing a poem about my Nan, some twenty years ago, I’ll let you see it when it is finished, so I don’t know about the challenge of producing something about my mother.

  5. Jo Bell
    March 8, 2010

    Derek – if it’s any consolation I haven’t written about my mum either. The problem is that a) she’s alive and b) I really like her, which as you will understand it most unhelpful. However, in TRYING to write about her I did come up with this tangential thingy:

    Cleanliness

    which clings like scum to all the surfaces,
    speaks of suds and urgent mopping,
    thwarted hungers;

    which polishes the salt-rough urge
    to flatten all the cushions in a messy fuck
    to strew the floor with scraps of Sunday
    or to eat your bread in chunks;

    which sweeps the ragged minutes
    into binbags tied with bows, leaving them
    cold-shouldered by the porch;

    which rubs out smuts and crumbs of pleasure,
    leaves the floor innocent of any footprint:
    makes you want to wipe your feet
    as you leave the house.

  6. Derek Adams
    March 8, 2010

    PS. like the new layout.

    By co-incidence The Essex Poetry festival website has been given an overhaul, & re-launch this week in it’s new clean slimline livery. http://www.essex-poetry-festival.co.uk
    Hopefully we will soon have a festival to put on it 🙂
    However the details of the 10th open poetry competition are on there & we are celebrating 10 years of the competition with a £1000 1st prize!

  7. angi
    March 12, 2010

    In need of the red pen treatment, but here’s an early draft. (Oh heck, I’m apologising already… that’s not allowed, is it?)

    Changing Seasons

    Narcissi bloom in miniature, in multi-coloured pots
    beyond the fresh-cut sandwiches, the pizza, pasta,
    spit-roast chicken. Remembering your delight
    when Tête-à-tête and Angels’ Tears broke through
    the snow-squashed grass at Pennine Close,
    I choose a pot and place them in my basket
    with your favourite fruit: bananas, pears
    sweet clementines. Next day I walk
    to Inwood House, dial in the code – one oh six six –
    to spend an overheated hour with you.
    You wake when I come in; you lift your small, round face,
    receive my kiss, my hug. Your smile is fractured,
    half-toothed, behind thin lips.
    I leave the fruit inside my bag; it’s close to lunch
    and you would eat the lot – spoil your appetite
    as years before you’d not let us spoil ours.
    Instead I place the pot of tiny flowers beside your chair.
    And while I talk to you – describe the uphill walk,
    the chilly wind, the cloud streaked sky – you reach out
    knuckled fingers, stroke the petals, lift the pot.

    And with a single bite, snap off a head, begin to chew.

    The mother now, I reach inside your mouth, try to catch
    the yellow head, the green and spit-streaked stem. A twinkle
    in your eyes; you sink your teeth on searching fingers.
    As I retreat, you swallow.
    Later, walking down the drive I feel the pain,
    my fingers blooming purple as the budding crocus.

  8. Angela Topping
    March 12, 2010

    Dandelions For Mothers’ Day

    “Pee-the-Beds” and “Mother-Die!”
    “Pick it and your mam’ll die!”

    “Faces like the sun.” she said
    Plunged them in a jam-jar.

    But they caught up with her: –
    Stained her skin yellow,
    Turned her hair to seed-clocks,
    Blew away her years.

  9. Rachel Fox
    March 12, 2010

    Shall I, shan’t I..?

    I put one up here a while back…but don’t tell anyone will you? She hates fuss.

    I can’t see a preview click so hope the link works!

    x

  10. Jo Bell
    March 12, 2010

    Rachel – link works fine, thanks ever so much.

  11. Pingback: Motherhood and Robin Hood « The Bell Jar

  12. Lisa Rossetti
    March 16, 2010

    Conforming to Carpets

    It would worry you, that still we do not have a bedroom carpet.
    As you worried about the lack of airing cupboards in my life.
    ‘Always buy three garments, one to wear, one in the wash, and one in the airing cupboard’, you said loudly, at every visit.
    You never got used to my inability to conform to carpets.

    Running down cool corridors in our colonial bungalow, over carmine red concrete floors, past shuttered windows to protect us from biting insects and disease;
    Padding across black painted boards at night, frightened by a tropical storm, to slip into your warm bed.

    Cloistered in Cornwall, I vented cross teenage spleen on your love of antique Turkish carpets. Petulant Child of the Sixties, I disdained your love of material objects.

    Later, I swept and mopped red and black Cheshire tiles from under the pounding feet of boy children. Hard, cold, muddy times.

    Now I remember you clumping upstairs with the Hoover, brisk, bustling, organised. Wanting to “get on and get things done”.

    So that you could at last stretch out your still elegant legs by the gasfire, chainsmoking Peter Stuyvesants, absorbed in crime novels. Surrounded at last by beautiful furnishings.

    © Lisa Rossetti: March 2010

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