Tag Archives: Ty Newydd

Giraffe

Seren Books had a brief 50% discount offer, so at the end of July I dashed to the website to make a purchase. In the library at Ty Newydd I’d seen a copy of In a different light, Translations into English of fourteen contemporary Dutch-language poets. Scrolling I suddenly spotted a picture of a giraffe!

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Bryony Littlefair was the Winner of the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition. Seren Books published her pamphlet last year. In her testimonial Myra Schneider says Her work, with its unexpected imagery and juxtapositions, is witty, ironic, frank, and poignant. Giraffe is a striking debut collection.

There are some intriguing titles: The year she asked for a scrubbing brush for Christmas; Poem in which not everything is lost; Visitations of a future self; The meaning of employable.

The tone of the poems is conversational, but Bryony has a clear eye for the detail. Dear Anne Monroe, Healthcare Assistant celebrates the “quiet beauty” of NHS nurses in Archway where the light is piss-yellow and everyone is angry. In The sadness of giftshops we see the owner’s thin, teal scarf, smattered with small white horses and the way she writes down everything she sells on a plain sheet of A4.

I enjoyed reading Bryony’s pamphlet, including the memorable poem Maybe this is why women get to live longer.  Here is a woman in a wrap dress/and brown hair tied loosely at the nape/of her neck, slack as an otter’s tail.  This woman is listening to a man with the thick/tufty eyebrows of a politics professor -/permanently raised, as if hung by them/to a washing line -.

The title poem is the last poem of the book, placed opposite Sertraline. It was previously published in Popshot Magazine, and I appreciate Bryony’s permission to share Giraffe with you.

Giraffe

When you feel better from this – and you will – it will be quiet and
unremarkable, like walking into the next room. It might sting a little, like
warmth leaking into cold-numbed hands. When you feel better, it will
be the slow clearing of static from the radio. It will be a film set when
the director yells cut! When you feel better, you will take: a plastic spoon
for your coffee foam, free chocolates from the gleaming oak reception
desk, the bus on sunny days, your own sweet time. When you feel better,
it will be like walking barefoot on cool, smooth planks of wood, still
damp from last night’s rain. It will be the holy silence when the tap stops
dripping. The moment a tap finally starts to make sense. When you feel
better, you will still suffer, but your sadness will be graspable, roadworthy,
have handlebars. When you feel better, you will not always be happy,
but when happiness does come, it will be long-legged, sun-dappled:
a giraffe.

 

The Artist’s Way

At Ty Newydd on the Writing Retreat the other week I talked with one of the people about books that might be helpful for dealing with “blocks”. I mentioned Julia Cameron’s bestseller The Artist’s Way. They hadn’t heard of it.

The book was recommended to me by a good friend who was a musician/painter. It had helped him work through blocks about being an artist and he thought I might benefit too. The Artist’s Way was first published in 1992 and it is A Course in Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self.

The book is based on the creativity workshops Julia Cameron had been running. In the book she briefly introduces Spiritual Electricity: the Basic Principles, then outlines the Basic Tools. Each of the 12 chapters addresses a major block. You’re expected to work through a chapter each week, by completing various exercises. Most pages have one or two short quotes about creativity in the margins. I found many of these very uplifting and supportive.

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I have just found the Contract which I signed on 30 June 1997. I had also highlighted a quote by Oscar Wilde: The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.

In sequence the chapters are Recovering a Sense of: Safety, Identity, Power, Integrity, Possibility, Abundance, Connection, Strength, Compassion, Self-Protection, Autonomy, Faith.

I found several of the exercises, tasks, questions extremely challenging and even very painful at times. Julia Cameron had warned me about the process in her initial chapter, that working through the course would be peaks-and-valleys, that I would experience anger, grief, defiance, want to give up the whole thing before I came to the creative U-turn from which there would be choppy growth.
She was correct! But I stuck with it and I have kept up with the Basic Tools since then:

1) Morning Pages – the main purpose is “to get to the other side” – of the critic, it’s a “brain drain”, just stream-of-consciousness dumping, angry, whiny stuff. Cameron suggests three pages in long-hand and she says “you shouldn’t even read them yourself for the first eight weeks”. After that period, it’s okay to read and see if there are things that could be used in your creative work.
2) The Artist Date – a block of time, perhaps two hours a week, set aside to nurture our inner artist. It doesn’t need to be expensive; it could be a solo walk on the beach, a visit to an art gallery, seeing an old movie. It’s the time commitment that is sacred. This is all about “Filling the Well, Stocking the Pond”.

If I was compiling that list of books that changed my life, The Artist’s Way would be on it.

Writing retreat with yoga

The writing retreat with yoga at Ty Newydd last week was very productive. I drove through torrential rain to North Wales, but it cleared as soon as I arrived, and we had three gorgeous days – warm and sunny.

TN house

Ty Newydd, North Wales

Ty Newydd, the National Writing Centre of Wales is a Grade II listed building. Part of it goes back to the 15th century. It was extended into a more upmarket three-storey Georgian residence in the mid-1700’s. A full renovation with new additions (such as that curved library window) was undertaken in the early 1940’s. The client was David Lloyd George, the politician and PM, who died in the house only a few years after moving in.
I didn’t know this, but the architect was Clough William-Ellis, better known as the creator of the nearby Italianate fantasy village Portmeirion. His motto was Cherish the past, adorn the present, construct for the future.

garden through librarygarden and sea 2

 

I had been apprehensive about the yoga, but Laura Karadog, our tutor, was reassuring. I managed three of the four morning sessions, 7am start, lasting for a full 75 minutes: grounding/breathing book-ending an active sequence of movement. Laura was excellent and very generous with her time, offering an afternoon and evening close-down, and individual slots. After the sessions I was grounded, focused and hungry!

My goal for the retreat was to go through all my poems and select enough to form the basis of a submission. After yoga I parked myself on that blue settee and spread my white papers around, then read or relaxed in the garden in the afternoon. Meal times were an opportunity to chat with the others. A nice and interesting group, writing diverse material: short stories, flash fiction, performance poetry, non-fiction, plays. And then there was the young woman composer from Colorado, US who had come to work on the libretto for an opera!

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