A new year, and a happy one to all. I'm a Christmas-born person, so I have a birthday year as well as a calendar year to reflect back upon at this time, along with a whole twelve months stretching out ahead before I add a new digit to my age. Apologies for Insta followers, as some of the following might seem a tad repetitive; some, maybe, but not all – and the point is, as a natural sceptic and cynic (who wouldn't be, joining the world as all around focused on scrambling to bagsy last-minute stocking fillers), I nonetheless try and dig out a bit of treasure, shine some light in the dark, as it were. Think positive thoughts, I suppose. and hopefully spread some inspiration along the way.
I've spent the last year quietly (mostly) getting on with being 50 and I think it's worth mentioning all the things I've managed to get done at such a ripe old age. I've published not just one debut book, but two, one poetry (cache-cache, out with Contraband) and the other prose (Marine Drive, Broken Sleep Books), with a third (Using Language, Invisible Hand Press) pushed into the spring because, y'know, buses, and the significant makings of a full poetry collection as well as a new short story, and various other bits and bobs writing-wise, to take me across the threshold into 2023. I've also published poems and prose pieces in journals and anthologies, and I've written features for some cool magazines, out soon. I've written a lot of copy, a lot of which I don't shout about because it's kind of my day job, so huh. I've also edited a lot of copy, which offers me a sneaky peek into other topics and thoughts and even worlds besides my own. I've shown work in two exhibitions, in the form of concrete poems. I've started sketching and painting and not being scared to muck about creatively. I intend to do more: David has signed me up for a watercolours course and I'm hoping to sign us both up for a bit of collaging.
I had an idea accepted for the Lancashire Stories project and was commissioned to create a brand-new piece and read some of it and discuss it at an event in a courtroom in a castle. As an offshoot of that, I got to stay on the Research Vessel Furor Scribendi, a pastel-hued canalboat-cum-library, complete with translations of Georges Perec and a bold as brass desk for scribbling and tennis balls for mugs and shells for plates. Being upon water and so close to it again was soothing. I also applied for a residency with Ilkley Literature Festival, the North's longest-running such event, and spent a good chunk of the year as Apprentice Poet-in-Residence, immersing myself in researching and reading and writing and performing and chatting and workshopping and mentoring. It was a fantastic experience, and you can read more about it in some of my previous posts.
I've taken up ballet, which has contributed to helping me recover from the fractured spine I sustained just before my 50th. It on occasion hurts my arthriticky hip like hell, but it's great for the old posture, and it's really good fun. It took a certain amount of courage to join a new class, but I did. I also joined an online group to discuss writing about place, and that proved fruitful and worth jumping in too, so, I suppose, face the fear, as Susan Jeffers kind of said in 1987. Don't get me wrong, not everything was great, and I had to fight hard to get justice in a couple of cases. I'm currently reading Rebecca Solnit's Recollections of my Non-existence, a suggestion from someone in the place-writing reading group, and she says of the "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" adage (thanks, Nietzsche; see also 'Opportunity To Build' in cache-cache): "what tries to kill you takes a lot of your energy that might be better used elsewhere and makes you tired and anxious." So imagine what else I could have achieved, but maybe that's what 2023 is for...