I have not been online much since October when I had an unexpected operation. I have been off work and not able to sit for long periods at the desk. With over 26 tablets a day it has been hard to focus or concentrate.
I am currently working on my next pamphlet which was accepted by V. Press last summer. The latest edits came through in October just before I found myself in hospital so I have been unable to keep up with the schedule. I have also had to pull out of every artistic event/gig/festival since the Autumn too. My last performance was National Poetry Day.
It has been a difficult enforced hiatus and I feel very disconnected.
I had to disconnect myself from social media on the phone as I couldn’t deal emotionally with reading about a world I couldn’t manage to be a part of.
Now it is the New Year and I am growing in health and strength. I have a festival event to organise, poetry from workshops in 2018 to display, a manuscript to work on and I took the role of a Director of Worcester LitFest back in the Autumn, a role which hopefully by next month I can actually manage.
I missed the Lit Festival in Voiron but from my WPL project there have been poets not known before to the community who are very much involved in the Twinning now. I will have the opportunity to meet them this Spring before (hopefully) going to the festival this year. I won a poetry competition I entered in September and Sarah Leavesley wrote an article for Poetry News (Poetry Society) about Two Cities (ATOTC – A Tale of Two Cities). The USA side of the project also had a reading in September.
So thank you for visiting the Fountain and splashing in all the archived posts. My STATS for 2018 were healthy (the best year yet). Each year the blocks tower upwards with the exception of my Poet Laureate year when I ran a second site.
I promise to work on updating pages and adding new material this year. But my first port of call is that manuscript!
I think it is a little late to be wishing you all Happy New Year – so welcome to 2017, I hope it has started well for you.
I took my annual break over Christmas and although I still need to tie up some monthly reviews and pages there really was little action as everything calms down a bit in December. Poets, like bears, enjoy hibernation.
This year I am spending the majority of my time writing and promoting ‘Fragile Houses’. Three new exciting opportunities have landed on my lap and in addition to these some new Literature Festivals have sprung up that I am busy organising events for. I do not plan to do 107 gigs this year, but there are still several events a month to keep me in the performance circuit/loop.
I am very excited about 2017 and have harnessed the sense of ‘new dawn’ we all experience on the 1st January and I intend to keep it. Which is ironic as I have had some wobbles already this month. So running on the pure scent of the beginning of the year… let’s get stuck in!
The past week has certainly been a busy one, I need to find more time for writing (tomorrow I have ONE glorious day off) AND if the weather (snow) is anything to go by, I will need it! I am hoping to catch up on writing as well as sleep.
Last Thursday was the first SpeakEasy of 2015, I was asked to perform and delighted to go (missed a few months at end of 2014) and love this event. Always warm, always wonderful, organised by Worcester Litfest, hosted by Fergus McGonigal and featuring Maggie Doyle. Both Poet Laureates work hard for WLF in organising this monthly night of spoken word, poetry and fun.
“Worcester SpeakEasy” is a monthly event of poetry and prose from the page and the stage (and a little music now and then), whichtakes place on the second Thursday of each month. The event promotes, showcases and encourages writers from the whole of Worcestershire and further afield; there is an invited headline poet each month.
The event is brought to you by your very own Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe, via Poet Laureate Emeritus Maggie Doyle and the Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2014-15 Fergus McGonigal, SpeakEasy’s host and MC. –
This month we had a change of venue and it was a small and intimate event, packed full and over-brimming with talent and entertaining and thought provoking performances. Open mic-ers joined in with booked acts and we had not one but TWO headline acts.
Peter Sutton – Poet – who I first came across during Worcester LitFest last summer, stunned us with his word weaving and incredibly intricate poetry and later on at the end of the night Kate Wragg treated us to a magic set, just her, her guitar and some handmade teddy bears! We all wait with baited breath for Kidderminster – The Musical.
Do you remember (perhaps as a child) feeling really excited the day/night before you went away on holiday? That’s how I feel when there are back to back poetry events (which will not happen as often in 2015 as I have no plans to dominate the circuit with another 100+ gigs), I left SpeakEasy, knowing that the very next evening I would see many poets again for our monthly Stanza meetings.
I have promised myself that the next Stanza meeting I will take a poem that is more than a few hours old! I always take something in need of tweaking or helping, as that is the whole point. The more you hone in on editing, the less stringy pieces become and so sometimes writing something completely new seems the only option. This feels like turning up to a party with a brewing kit instead of an armful of drinks…
I (as always) enjoyed our meeting and it was lovely to see everyone after the New Year break. There are lots of exciting things happening at the moment for all of us in our poetry bubble, one opportunity is resulting in a poet’s day out later this month, unfortunately I shall not be with them to share the luncheon and laughter, only in spirit. (My own fault for taking a fortnight offline over Christmas!)
The next event to take place happened just this evening – a 3rd Birthday party/Anniversary for Mouth and Music and Heather Wastie and Sarah Tamar kicked off in true hardworking, inspirational style with an event called ‘Spark Off’!
It has been an incredible second week back on the circuit and I still have lots more to look forward to this month! To make tonight even more magical (despite not winning), we walked out to falling snow. It made the journey home for everyone slightly hazardous but SPARKED my childlike glee ignition and I happily danced out of BHG venue and twirled in the snow as I ran for the car and tried to zip my poetry collection up dry!
Over Christmas I read an amazing book by Rachel Kelly. I sent Rachel an email this week requesting permission to use part of Chapter 15 to base this post on, I was delighted when I received a reply the same day! Thanks for your kind permission Rachel and heart-warming email.
I had been thinking about my NEW YEAR blog message, when I read this chapter these pages jumped out (page 275-278). Sections of the book are shown in this
2015 and You
In Chapter 15 of Black Rainbow, Rachel writes about a book group she started in her neighbourhood, they were all trying to help each other beat depression, the difference with this book club was they reviewed self-help books. Rachel herself worked through some of her depression by rekindling her love for poetry and sometimes prayers. It was this factor that encouraged my mum to recommend this book to me, that was my connection. Only in my own battle against illness I rediscovered writing poetry.
I spent the first 3 years of depression fighting it (something all suffers know is futile), I self- medicated; devoured self-help books, my whole library lending list was full of them, I read every single relevant title in my local library as well as stocking my own shelves at home (eat your heart out Bridgette Jones), I tried meditation, both in audio form and prayer/meditations, I tried pilates, yoga, t’ai chi, visualisation, mood boards, life coaching (I am trained myself and know how important it is to see a coach from time to time) – I was stuck – nothing worked because I was severely depressed in need of help, therapy and medication.
I agree that the list of things above can enhance healing experience, in fact my own experience of psychotherapy last year worked wonders and my sub-conscious still has the power to drag me back before I fall too far. We arm ourselves as best we can with a whole stock cupboard of counter balances, do our best to protect ourselves from the darkness, despite knowing that if and when it hits we just have to live with it, let it do its worse and rebuild afterwards. Become as resilient as nature. The plant may well look dead, but you keep watering it and you will be amazed by what happens.
So let’s start our New Year arming ourselves with tools, create the change we want to see happen. Only you have that power.
Tools for creating change
Let’s start with a prayer Rachel pinned to her noticeboard, read it, let the words sink in. If you are not religious, see it as spirit talk, being a better human being, mankind;
Lord, help me to notice all the signs of goodness
around me and give thanks for them.
Lord, we are each other’s gifts: help me to be thankful for
every life-giving encounter and to see that your gifts
are all around me if only I would look.
In gratitude I will find healing.
I have posted about (and written) gratitude journals over the years, if this is something you want to do or need to do to spot the good and take notice, now is the time to start one. Do it for January, dip in daily/weekly/monthly. I used to make a note of 3-5 gratitudes a day.
I chose a small, pretty notebook, tied with a purple ribbon and kept it next to my bed, I used to reflect on a short list just before going to sleep.
The more you take notice, the more you will see.
Print the Prayer
Do what Rachel did, print it out, stick it on your noticeboard, notice it.
Use the prayer. Read it aloud and then ponder on what it says, what is good around you, what signs of goodness do you see and hear today? Give thanks for them. Literally… ‘Thank you for ……’
Think about your own gifts, what do you give to people? Who have you encountered that you felt blessed by or antagonistic towards – not all signs are sent sugar-coated, sometimes there is a different kind of obstacle to overcome to create change.
What of God’s gifts or the universe’s gifts/ mother nature… what are you missing? Open your eyes (you know you have 3)!
Finally repeat the endlines as a mantra until you believe that healing is possible.
In gratitude I will find healing.
I persuaded the group that we should each bring along favourite poem to the next session. I brought my faithful Herbert poem ‘The Flower’, with its message of rebirth. A friend brought this poem entitled ‘Instants’, its author unknown:
It was actually written by Jorge Luis Borges, however the versions I have found are slightly different in wording to the poem seen by the group (I imagine this is a translation issue). The wording here is referenced from ‘black rainbow’ and appears as it does in the text apart from the fact the poem is one stanza, WordPress and I have some formatting issues!
If I could live my life again, In the next I would try to make more mistakes, I wouldn’t try to be so perfect, I would be more relaxed, I’ll be more full – than I am now, I’d be sillier than I have been this time around, In fact, I’d take very few things seriously. I would be less hygienic, I would take more risks, I would take more trips, I would watch more sunsets, I would climb more mountains, I would swim more rivers, I would go to more places that I’ve never been, I would eat more ice creams and fewer lima beans, I would have more real problems and fewer imaginary ones. I was one of those people who lived prudent and prolific lives – each minute of his life. Of course I had moments of joy, but, if I could go back I would try to have only good moments,
After all, moments are what life is made of, Don’t miss out on the now!
I was one of those people who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, without a hot-water bottle, without an umberella and a parachute,
If I could live my life again I would travel light. If I could live my life again I would walk bare foot from the beginning of spring till the end of autumn. I would take more rides on merry-go-rounds, I would watch more sunrises and play with more children, If I had the life to live. But now as you see, I am eighty-five, – and I know that I am dying .
WOW! At this point I probably needn’t type anymore, right? I mean it has all been said. This poem made me feel invincible. Read it again. We all agree. Old age is after all a place (hopefully) we are inevitably heading towards, this was another reason I was so angry about being debilitated by depression in my 30s. That time when we should be jumping out of planes and climbing mountains on the other side of the world.
We weren’t eighty-five and we weren’t dying. The time had come to watch more sunrises and play with more children, to shout with joy and swim more rivers.
We spent time at the group making our own lists inspired by ‘Instants’… ‘Let’s boost our sense of delight.’ We made logs of the past year and recorded what we had most enjoyed doing and what we hadn’t enjoyed too.
Write your list
Rewrite the poem from your own perspective, what would you care less about or strive to do more? Maybe you can make these part of 2015 and not wait until you are eighty-five. Make your wishes reality.
Or copy what the group did and create your own log from 2014.
Find the pursuit that allows you to be your most creative self. Go with the flow.
The chapter closes with a letter written by Sir Sydney Smith in 1820 which Rachel was sent. It parallels with her own guidelines for dealing with low spirits… apart from his advice to avoid poetry. I would say BATHE IN IT!
Thanks again Rachel for writing the book in the first place and for allowing me to reference sections here
ADVICE CONCERNING LOW SPIRITS
A letter from Sydney Smith to Lady Georgiana Morpeth, Feb. 16, 1820:
Dear Lady Georgiana,– Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done — so I feel for you. 1st. Live as well as you dare. 2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°. 3rd. Amusing books. 4th. Short views of human life — not further than dinner or tea. 5th. Be as busy as you can. 6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you. 7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you. 8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely — they are always worse for dignified concealment. 9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you. 10th. Compare your lot with that of other people. 11th. Don’texpect too much from human life — a sorry business at the best. 12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence. 13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree. 14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue. 15th. Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant. 16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness. 17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice. 18th. Keep good blazing fires. 19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion. 20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana, Very truly yours, Sydney Smith
Despite constant advances since the 1820s, much of this advice is still relevant and helpful, some more so.
Let’s finish with a reminder that life is precious, we are heading forwards – let’s make it worthwhile. Spend some of your time with those staying young at heart.
In return for the permission to use part of Chapter 15, here are some links to Rachel’s website, go and BUY her book on Amazon or download the app.
‘I would love to get the book into the hands of those who need it and all my author proceeds go to mental health charities.’ – Rachel Kelly www.black-rainbow.co.uk
Rachel Kelly is a writer and former journalist on The Times. Her memoir Black Rainbow was published by Hodder & Stoughton in April 2014 and won the Spear’s Best First Book Award in October 2014.
I have had a play around in Blogland and managed to actually visit and read other blogs and as one would expect at this time of year they are all filled to the brim with shiny new hope and goal setting.
As a trained Life Coach I know about this field and how to succeed. I don’t make resolutions, I make plans. Then I chase my way through all the obstacles to victory or a soothing acceptance somewhere close by.
I had a trawl through our own archives here and found some GEMS that I will link you up to, recommended reading for sure. As a blogger, I have been carrying the thought of my New Year message since Christmas, when as you remember I was offline and absorbing the full 3D reality of life in the big, wide world.
It seems last year I did make resolutions, the best thing about this post ^ is knowing the results 12 months later;
Here are my resolutions – feel free to commit some of your own down in response to this post.
I am working towards a collection of poems for a pamphlet. I sent 2 manuscripts, both were rejected but one showed promise and I continue to make this my personal project of 2015. The process has opened up a whole new world. I had the wardrobe, now I have to find my way around Narnia!
I am starting work as an Assistant Writer with hope of having a position as a Lead Writer in 2015. I am coming up to 12 months as an Assistant Writer for WWM and have also been 1 of 3 writers picked as mentors for a term.
I am going to have a big presence on the Performance Circuit in the hope of being booked for guest spots by the end of the year. I managed 107 events, some were open mics, other were gallery openings, art projects, festivals, commissions, collaborations, everyone of them was a delight! I performed alongside many amazing people and have just had my 2nd Headline/ Main guest booking!
I will submit poetry for publication. I did! Some was published, others rejected, all were new writing fresh from my pen.
I will write some short stories for competitions. I did, I have shelved this as I was not particularly successful in this field although I corresponded with some incredible people and had a few close misses. However, posts I wrote back in 2013 about writing short stories are still top of the stats several years later.
I spent the holidays reading a rather large book which was an emotional mountain for me, reaching the peak took several attempts and I needed to find more strength to finish the final chapters. It was far from an easy read (and yet still enjoyable) it is the kind of book I have always imagined writing, the sort of book that I didn’t believe existed, the sort of book I have needed to read for years, but wouldn’t have been strong enough or open enough before now (and it was still being written) there in the final pages I found shining out at me ,a New Year message.
I recommend it for any families with depression sufferers, as someone suffering it might be a monumental challenge but a worthwhile one.
I accepted help in 2012 and have been on medication (and other treatment) ever since, I spent the first 3-4 years trying to self help, medicate naturally and hid it from myself and others. I was diagnosed as high functioning but had slam-dunked the Beck Test, severe depression. It is something that affects lots of creative minds.
Part of my healing came from reading and later writing (journaling emotions initially) and eventually writing again after a 15 year break and finally entering back into the world of Poetry, all of which supports me in my day to day living.
I acknowledge that I attacked 2014 on the LIVE circuit with a vigour that was only possible to maintain through mania and that I myself need to calmly tread into 2015, stay behind the desk a little more, get things done, write my own rainbows. I’ve started, I am 90k into a manuscript that is still growing and assembling some shape, finding that there are books out there written by people who have lived it, that work to lift your head to a different space is exhilarating and I will definitely pursue my own version of such a record, more books like this are needed.
Having said that, the diary for January is already filling up and brimming with a few exciting new ventures. More on that later.
Look out for my post on Rainbows COMING SOON!
Until then, spend some time considering what you want to discover in this new year. Look around you, be a part of that.
Dream big & keep writing
About one in 10 people, possibly more, in the UK will experience depression during their lifetime. However, the exact number is hard to estimate because many people do not get help, or are not formally diagnosed with the condition. When sadness and other symptoms of depression are intense and last for long periods of time, they can signal clinical depression or major depression, a serious medical illness that needs professional care.
At the end of 2012 (which had to be one of the worst years of my life) I read an inspirational post on social media. The idea behind it is you keep track of achievements in your life by writing them down and placing them in a jar. Then on New Year’s Eve, you open it and read the review of your successes over the year.
Here are the images of my 1st attempt at this feel good/ gratitude idea and I strongly advise you try it next year!
This is the funky bottle I chose to make me feel good – I thought even a few good things would fill this jar. and I was right by the end of January
In February I found a bigger jar and 1/3 of the way through the end of the year (April) it looked like this!
By August 2/3 of the way through the year and in a new house it looked like this
and finally this is what it looks like now – I have a few more to add before the end of the year and will be sure to post some images of the grade unveiling! Something to look forward to on NYE!
I can remember some of the bigger achievements and a lot of these will be about my developing good health – I hardly recognise my life compared to 12 months ago. Amongst the achievements I can recall are;