Everything that comes out my pen is dark and sour these last weeks. The pressures of nursing are the pressures of giving a large part of yourself away each day, particularly with high staff sickness and negligent under funding. The truth is you’re left with very little left to get you by when you need it – sometimes only scraps for your friends, family and yourself. I think of poetry as ‘what I am’ and nursing as ‘what I do’, which sounds a bit strange when written down. I haven’t had a lot left for poetry and what there’s been is dark and bitter as the dregs of the barrel, which makes me disappointed in myself.
I tried to get out a bit this weekend instead of hiding in bed. We went walking on Saturday and Sunday – an attempt to be fitter, healthier, more productive. Both days I struggled to see past my own inward looking thoughts, though I know there was a cheeky robin that followed us round the lake, trees and reeds gloved in ice and the outward contrast of the glassy, cold, disinterested water. My legs were also very sore from the plywood incident (an interesting fade from yellow to black). I wrote a bit in The Shepherd’s Arms (as in the picture above), but otherwise very little. We’ve got a bird table in the yard and I’ve enjoyed watching the robin, sparrow and rook picking out the mealworms (although the robin still prefers to steal from the rabbit’s bowl). There was a vacated mouse nest in the shed and it was facinating to see what they’d built out of rabbit fur. There was a collection of stored food, including popcorn! They seem to have gone for the winter. I’ve followed a few poetry blogs this week and finished John Foggin’s Outlaws and Fallen Angels, which I found excellent and very cleverly done. I’m also reading The Girls by Emma Cline – a Charles Manson-esque depiction of the disturbance running below the sunny, California surface of 1969. I’m looking forward to reading The Violet Hour by Katie Roiphe: a book exploring the way writers have faced death. My own experience has been that most people face it with an immense amount of dignity and courage.
I have two poems due to be published in the New Year Issue of The American Journal of Poetry and feel very pleased. They are both very new poems and not tried and tested elsewhere. To get them accepted first time was exciting. I’m debating whether to sign up for a writer’s residential course next year. Just battling away with confidence on that one….
I found Life On The Psych Ward (Channel 4) a good documentary on the real difficulties of rehabilitating mentally ill offenders. Many years ago when I was a medical secretary, I managed to get onto a medical students’ trip to Broadmoor (just due to my enthusiasm and the kindness of the psychiatrist I was working for). Dr McInerney showed us round and every minute of that day sticks in my mind: meeting the patients, the old ballroom, the ‘small animal care’ centre, meant to promote gentleness and the sheer disturbance of the patients, the carnage of their histories. But most of all I remember the insight and intelligence of Dr McInerney. Not only was he always humane and insightful, he even gave us all a disc with sign posts to relevant films, literature and academic articles.
I have the phrase ‘I was the shadow of the waxwing slain…‘ stuck in my head and have done for days which must mean it’s time to read the unique and hilarious novel-poem Pale Fire by Nabokov again. In fact I’m going on Amazon to buy it now.