Tuesday, 20 October 2015

I Collect A Commendation

Whilst I was with Threesome on the Edinburgh Fringe in August, performing in Sweet Thunder, A Show in Three Layers, I heard that I had been highly commended.  I found this out at about 11pm, and although I was in my room in my pyjamas, I rushed downstairs and surprised my cousin with a hug.

The mission of the Bridport Prize is to "encourage emerging writers and promote literary excellence through its competition structure."  Well, it's succeeded in encouraging me.  My poem, Michelangelo's David, was chosen from over 7000 entries from 78 countries to be highly commended by this year's judge, Roger McGough.  It even beat the other two poems I had entered.  The Lucas clan, family of my longest-serving friend, says that I am now eligible to use the strap-line Internationally Acclaimed Poet on my website.

Being recognised as a poet is as essential to me these days as being recognised as a mother -  it's no coincidence that I write more about motherhood than any other subject.  It took me years to come out as a poet - I remember very clearly when I was about 8 showing my family a poem I'd dashed off, and declaring that this was to be my life's work.  I don't think I spoke loudly enough.  There followed rejections by the school magazine and decades in the poetic wilderness, until 2011 when I won the Roy Fisher Prize.

Poetry competitions have been kind to me since then, enabling me to put myself in a position to be recognised and to recognise myself.  Of course, I've entered quite a few without winning anything, but that simply makes success, when it comes, all the sweeter.

My longest-serving friend's mother was my companion at the prize-giving last Saturday.  Her support for my endeavours has involved her in lengthy conversations over piles of paper and cups of tea, intrepid train journeys via South West Trains and Arriva Trains Wales, and lost luggage, so she was my first choice of guest for the big occasion.  When I went up on the stage at Bridport Arts Centre last Saturday afternoon to shake the mighty Roger's hand, he asked me, with a twinkle in his eye, how my Italian is getting on. 

Michelangelo's David

I didn’t plan for this, queueing with my sons,
i miei figli, for the Galleria dell’Accademia
to see Michelangelo’s David.
We’re in Florence, Firenze, Italy, Italia.
I’ve brought no food, no drink, no pack of cards,
niente, not even an Italian phrasebook.

Half an hour and just ten feet along it’s:
‘Whose idea was this?’ and the danger of feeling
this queue’s a mistake we needn’t have started.
But, given time, we become more fluent,
take it in turns to drift in and out to buy focaccia,
pizza, tre gelati, un cappuccino, limonata, acqua,
discover we’ve learnt these words without trying.

It turns out this is why we are waiting:
for loose-limbed time leaning on walls,
leaning on each other, playing with words,
playing with our hair, making it up as we go along.
We’re unsure of the scope but discover that love
can be translated into time in any language.
David’s the perfect excuse for being here
in Florence in the sun on a Wednesday in April -
for trying out being together in Italian.

I miei figli, i miei cari figli, my beloved sons:
this is, after all, my point. Passing time with you
is all, tutto, enough, basta. And look, guarda!
Even our shadows are smiling.

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