I’m sitting at my kitchen table looking out, through the apple blossom and the pergola that I keep thinking I’ll move because it gets in the way of the view, at the mist. That’s all I can see beyond the fence this evening. On a clear day there are green hills, and Dartmoor in the distance. I haven’t written a post here since February and have been feeling the urge, though I’m not sure what I’m going to say. (Perhaps it might be better not to say that, a little voice says.)
May Day has already gone. Memories of May morning in Oxford: the inaudible anthem sung at 5am from Magdalen tower (these days they amplify it), bathing (well, wiping) my face with dew from the college lawn, Morris men with bells jingling and concertinas squeezing for all they’re worth. Down here people are quite keen on Beltane, the Celtic festival, though I haven’t heard of any bonfires being lit and in any case today has been seriously wet. In Totnes some sort of ceremony is taking place tomorrow at the Leechwell (reputedly a healing spring). The violets and primroses are still in flower but near the end, and the bluebells are coming into their own. Wild garlic is everywhere, the little white spiky flowers just beginning to open.
Not long ago I ran a workshop which brought together Focusing and writing. (If you want to know more about Focusing, try Focusing Resources.) I was looking for a theme for a piece of writing and didn’t want to ignore the spring, but it has been done before… What I came up with was ‘What’s wrong with spring?’ It sparked off some interesting poems, exploring the theme either personally or globally and ecologically. For me there was something about spring coming too soon, while I was still wrapped in winter; perhaps the seasons – such as they are – often surprise me like that. The snowdrops out already, then the daffodils, the fritillaries, the tulips, and now the cherry blossom half over and already dropping petals.
It isn’t only the flowers. The poetry group 52 is almost over and the last prompt has been posted. I joined an online poem a day group halfway through April and that’s over too. I didn’t join 52 till May last year and in recent weeks I’ve fallen woefully behind. I’ve been ‘lurking’, in group parlance, more than I’ve been posting my own work or commenting on other people’s.I didn’t manage a poem a day on the other group either, though I’ve written some. My latest effort was about losing a bar of chocolate – which I did – but I can’t say it was one of my best. 52 was only meant to have lasted for a year (hence the title – a prompt a week) but it was so hugely successful that its life was extended. Some people have continued to write numerous poems a week, as I did for a while, and many have done well in competitions and/or had work published in prestigious magazines.
This time last year I was just beginning to send poems out and get them published. The excitement of it stayed with me as the acceptances mounted up, outweighing the rejections. Then, like all good things, it came to an end. Towards the end of my round of submissions I had more rejections from magazines. Since then I’ve hardly sent out any more poems, though I have entered some single poem competitions and got as far as a longlist with one. I also keep entering pamphlet competitions, even though the standard is fearsomely high. On the novel front, I’ve been revising the novel I sent out before (once again with valuable input from my group) but haven’t finished it yet. The second one I started has been on hold for a long time but I hope I may go back to it.
I said to my group a little while ago that I seemed to be in the doldrums: not necessarily depressed – though I confess to feeling less chipper than I was – but becalmed and not entirely sure which way the wind will blow next. I keep saying I’m going to do another round of submissions but somehow it hasn’t happened yet. (It will, I tell myself every time I see that other members of 52 are getting work into magazines.) And I’m still not giving up on the novel and may look more seriously into other ways of getting it published, though self-publishing is not easy. A friend of mine who reads many self-published books has said that almost all of them would have been vastly better if they’d had the benefit of a proper editor. Other members of my writing group have had or are having their work published by reputable publishers, but I can safely say their books are exceptional.
Nevertheless I’m still hanging in there. I get discouraged and de-motivated for a while, I think other people’s work is far better than mine (which of course sometimes it is), but sooner or later I’m back in there and having another go. Somehow I don’t give up – at least not for good. If it’s worth doing… it’s worth doing.