Thursday, 28 August 2014

I Shake Crumbs From My Keyboard

Today, I picked up my computer keyboard, turned it over, and shook.  Out fell the crumbs of lunches long forgotten, and other unidentifiable crud.  Apparently, computer keyboards can harbour more bacteria than toilet seats.

Shaking out my keyboard only occurs when I have either got stuck on a particularly difficult task, or when I am feeling intense existential angst and seek the fulfillment which comes from cleaning something.

When I'd swept up the debris, and turned the keyboard back over, it didn't look any cleaner.  

Other things I do in acts of random cleaning include washing the seals around the inside of the dishwasher and dusting the floor underneath the piano.  

There's nothing like task avoidance for getting a fairly pointless job done.

I use various implements for deeper keyboard cleaning.  I've never had the recommended can of compressed air to hand, so I improvise using pencils, uncoiled paper clips and the corners of folded paper to lever out the fluff which collects between keys.  Each little furry clump that I extract represents a moment of satisfaction.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

I Read A Slim Pamphlet

I read a new pamphlet of poetry earlier today.  It's called Mending The Ordinary and it says on the cover that it's by me and published by Fair Acre Press.  I was a bit surprised to see my name on it because it's a collaboration, and the work is full of other people's ideas.

I have, for example, taken some of the poems to workshops where poets have commented on them and offered useful suggestions, often about leaving words out. One of the things I like about the pamphlet is its white space - I'm grateful to everyone who helped me to increase and shape this.

Many of the poems are inspired by people I love.  Other readers may sense their love for their children or their mothers or their friends appearing in the poems in some way. The poems owe themselves to those things which can only occur in the context relationships.

And I'm aware of the way in which the poems are ordered and how much I like the trajectory as it is, and how the rightness of the order took me by surprise again this time round.  They don't appear in the order in which I set them out originally: this order is so much better.  Nadia Kingsley, who designed, edited and published the pamphlet, worked out how the poems could sit together and showed me what she meant.  As we discussed it, I saw that what she was suggesting was completely and obviously right.   It's a particular gift of hers, this pairing and linking of poems, this being able to visualise how they'll look when the pages are opened and turned,  how they'll speak to each other across the fold.

It's a privilege to be read.  It's a privilege to have my work taken seriously, examined, shaped and then given back to me like this.  My name is on the cover, but this pamphlet is not a solo act.

Mending The Ordinary is published by Fair Acre Press at  £4.99.  It's also available at Wenlock Books.

Monday, 18 August 2014

I Collaborate With Alex Ramsay

I wrote five poems last week.  And they're keepers.  They will probably develop, become more streamlined and robust, but each has its core, which will remain.  They are five of twelve written for a collaboration.

This unusual proliferation is due to an invitation from Alex Ramsay in the spring to write poems in response to photographs for his exhibition, Os.  It is also something to do with having a deadline, with a sense of commitment to Alex's work - which I've always loved - and a desire to rise to the occasion.

I recently asked a poet whether he ever collaborates.  'Only with myself', he said, twinkling.

Collaboration involves conversation both with the work and the artist.  It demands intimacy, trust and vulnerability.  For me, it feels a bit like getting my kit off in broad daylight.  And I'm nearly fifty.

The conversations Alex and I have had have been about his philosophy of photography, about font size, about how elephants eat, about wine, about resurrection.  We've discussed the many meanings of the Latin word Os (bone, mouth, mask ....) before it declines into oris, or ossis.

In terms of process, I've been carrying around copies of Alex's photos in my bag for weeks - getting them out to look at whenever I can.  Making notes.  Writing, discarding.  Staring out of windows.  Looking again.  Writing, discarding.  Waiting for an authentic response.

Responding to Alex's work in poetry has been a privilege, and brought a satisfaction which collaborating with myself doesn't.  Ars gratia artis.

 Event 15 of the Presteigne Festival is at the Workhouse Gallery on Monday August 25th at 11.00am 
Liz Lefroy will be reading from her latest work Mending the Ordinary while Alex Ramsay will give an outline of the thinking behind the exhibition Os - tickets £6.00 from the Festival box office ( or 01544 267800)

Monday, 4 August 2014

I Eat Jammie Dodgers

I am wondering whether I will eat another jammie dodger.  I've eaten three so far and just poured myself a gin and tonic.

As a child, I was allowed two biscuits a day after school, with a cup of tea.  Mum would buy malted milk and ginger nuts in turn.  We called malted milk 'cow biscuits' and I used to eat the patterned edge first, leaving the cows grazing in the middle till the end. If the ginger nuts ended up in the tin at the same time as the malted milks, everything tasted of ginger.

When I went through my chubby stage, Mum substituted a satsuma or an apple for the biscuits.  It felt like a sacrifice but I'm not sure it made any difference.

A woman from church, Auntie Margaret, bought jaffa cakes whenever she invited us for tea.  The meal she served was always the same: veal and ham pie, tinned potatoes, tinned carrots, jelly made with evaporated milk - then the jaffa cakes.  Once, the tea turned out to be her birthday tea, and I asked her if she was 21.  It took years for me to realise why she laughed and seemed so pleased.

There was a quiet story that went around that Auntie Margaret's fiance was killed in the second world war. I think that's why my brothers and I were often lent to her for trips out.  It was a good idea in theory, but no one ever asked us if we wanted to go.

There are eight jammie dodgers in a packet, and I've never been taught any specific rules about gin.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

I Respond To A Tagging

There is a phase on Facebook at the moment for focusing on positives.  The routine is to post three positives in your status and tag three people to do the same for five days.  This is my response.  As usual, I'm messing with the rules and listing fifteen things all in one go.

1.   I know how to change a washer, thanks to Justin's patient instruction.  
2.   I sport temporary tattoos on a regular basis, thanks to Barry's thoughtful present
3.   I can smell lilies, thanks to Natalie
4.   My back is feeling fine, thanks to physio advice from Penny
5.   I am looking forward to a big poetry reading in November thanks to Charlotte buying me that ticket for a Carol Ann Duffy / Gillian Clarke reading three years ago, and because of Anna's belief in me
6.   I ate lunch out with my beautiful son Jonty yesterday, thanks to having my full time contract extended as a result of Wulf's hard work
7.   I smiled when I got home the other day despite feeling awful, thanks to Kathy sending me a glorious poem and Lucy's hilarious and truthful postcard
8.   I have precious memories of talking with poet David Whyte, thanks to Will inviting me over for supper
9.   I will be icing gingerbread later, thanks to my mum teaching me how to bake
10. I laugh often and like a drain, thanks to the wit of my sparkling son Gabriel
11. I am waiting for my next pamphlet to arrive from the printers, thanks to Nadia's willingness to take on my work, Kev helping me to proof read, and Jeremy's kindness
12. I am spending today typing up new poems, thanks to Alex asking me to collaborate on his exhibition of photographs
13. I am getting a bit better at badminton, thanks to Jonathan showing me how to serve
14. I call myself a poet without shame, thanks to Ted, Jim, Deb, Philip, Joyce, Sue, Peter, Paul, Ryan and Peter, and all the other people who've encouraged me to listen to my own voice and to speak so I can be heard
15. I feel secure in the midst of change, thanks to the constant utter pleasure of knowing my longest-serving friend Helen for forty years

We are all connected.  I see others' homes, lives and families being blown apart and I weep.  

I think of my own life and the people in it, and I know that life is made full of wonder through love.