Saturday 31 December 2011

Good-bye, Annus Horribilis

The year began well: in February I brought out my second book of poems, Divining for Starters, and in April I moved in with my boyfriend, while continuing to write and teach (two of my greatest pleasures). But on 29 July my mother, my dearest friend, died too soon, most suddenly and unexpectedly, and August became the worst month of my life, full of family slights and betrayals alongside sorting through my parents' belongings and finances and suffering an incredible grief. In the last month I've started to feel a little better, feel myself inside a slightly lesser mourning, but it's hard to imagine what would make the next year worthwhile. I plan to read and write more, to try to write better, to continue reviewing and publishing, but I'm not excited by these prospects the way I used to be. I am waiting to be excited, I think. I am hoping and watching. And remembering my parents in their stunning absence.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Fabulous new poems by Claire Crowther

and many others compose Blackbox Manifold's seventh issue, including Nathaniel Mackey and Aidan Semmens. There's also a strong translation section with contributions from Tim Atkins, Vahni Capildeo, Rod Mengham, Justin Quinn and Keston Sutherland, among others.

(Here's where I admit to possible bias re: Claire's poems; she's a close friend. Nonetheless, the poems are startlingly good.)

Monday 12 December 2011

O Christmas Tree

Tonight, decorating my boyfriend's shiny fake brown tree, strung with bunny lights, I broke for a moment. (Is that oxymoronic--can one really break for just a moment; is it then not a real break?) I was hanging ornaments, and for many years I bought matching ornaments for my mother and I, to create a mirroring between home and away. I couldn't remember the origins of some, while others' purchases I recalled vividly, as with those from the Mikasa outlet in Irvine; the strangeness of buying crystal snowflakes in a desert.

In my ten years in England, I think I've seen candy canes just once, and so finding them today amid online grocery shopping startled and delighted me. On Christmas Day candy canes would appear on the tree, as though left by Santa; there were several late nights I put those candy canes up for the sake of my younger sisters and later my nieces and nephews. Now I'm eager to repeat the same, as I cling to that sharply severed thread to the past.

Often in my thoughts are my parents' histories, which they referred to in asides and the odd anecdote over the years. Both were only children. After my father died, my mother intended to write down what she knew of her family's history, once she retired; she died days before the first retirement check arrived. I scramble at what I remember, knowing how much information my parents held dear that died with them. There is so much information, and still so much lost.

From here I see a rare photograph of my father smiling after his paralysis. He's got a Christmas present in his lap. One brother in law, two nephews, and my mother are scattered and intent on their own purposes in the background, and for once Dad looks at ease in the ill-fitted wheelchair. I had a tremendously nourishing family life, I knew and appreciated the fact, and oh, life seems so meager without it.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Alice Oswald withdraws from the T.S. Eliot Prize

in protest at the sponsor Aurum, an investment company focusing on hedge funds. Americans need to know that this is the most prestigious prize for poetry in the UK--it'd be like withdrawing from the Pulitzer or National Book Award, which makes Oswald's act that much more public and impressive. Read the story in The Guardian.