My first collection of poetry, forthcoming in 2020 (we hope) with Survivors’ Press.
I began writing poetry in 2004 whilst I was completing my MA in counselling research. It was my course at Durham University that really opened me up to seeing I could develop my writing. I’d always wanted to but hadn’t dared. I’d never have thought I’d write poetry – why poets lead exciting daring lives, daring to live. I shut down how I lived as I knew I asked questions that seemed impossible, especially about gender, or impossible for little old me.
So my writing has roots in that time of counselling self exploration. My research was qualitative, phenomenological, hermeneutic and heuristic, a key text was by Clark Moustakas, Heuristic Research. In some ways my book may be informed by those seeds run a little wild as a would be poet found themselves.
Another seed was a BBC documentary at that time about Asklepios and another about the culture and mosaics on Thera/Santorini. Since an Ancient History A level I’ve always enjoyed learning about the ancients, especially Greece. Something about Asklepios and his symbol spoke to me, for a long time I’d thought I’d be a medic. The cure at Epidavros, which I’d visited, spoke to my counselling student mind as reminiscent of a humanistic counselling process.
After graduation I began exploring adult education in poetry, though this was derailed by ill health. That led to a fallow time in which these ideas were in the background and for several years I wrote little poetry. Though when I did I started to challenge myself to engage with difficult honesty. I also tried to make up for some lost time with reading. I tend to read slowly though and it is of course an infinite task, and one best done without haste.
As life moved on I found myself in a new job and again able to approach adult education. I was already a Survivor of the mental health system and now all the more so. I found myself around 2010 applying and to my surprise being accepted by the Survivors’ Poetry mentoring scheme, my mentor Dr Simon Jenner.
Simon’s help has been huge – first a great listener to my work and validator of it to myself. Secondly I learned much of how to approach poetry and being a serious writer of it, starting for the first time to experiment consistently with metre. We worked towards a pamphlet, but it was now that it started to become clear I may have had a book and I dared to broach my ideas about Asklepios for its form.
The book is not yet published. Though that has only led it to develop. Sometimes I have thought it may have a structure that will always be one I may add poems to (similarly to Walt Whitman with Leaves of Grass). Though I now see a possible second book in part from many of my poems published here which I tentatively call Dagian (old english for ‘becoming day’).
In the time since Simon and Survivors’ have consistently helped me. Local adult education has helped, especially Kathleen Kenny. I’ve also had encouragement from Disability Arts Online and Colin Hambrook there – I wrote another introduction to the book for him there back in 2014, you can read it here: Disability Arts Online, The Staff of Asklepios
Since then its only grown and improved, though its now in the indefinite article, that has defined it, helped it find its shape further. It has a structure mirroring a healing process into which poems seem to find a way to drop into position relatively easily, though some may have several possible positions.
We still hope it may be printed with Survivors’ Press in 2020. I had decided just before the lockdown to print an introductory pamphlet, Survivors. That is now on hold due to the lockdown. I’m reviewing that too at present.
A number of the poems in both are scattered on this blog, some tagged as such. When together they may suggest a linear journey, but whilst they may appear autobiographical, I think of them as lyrical and my own journey is not mapped precisely, neither is that linear, the book reflects on several decades, following a thread that might be seen as golden. A journey known through the ages that we might see as toward health and self actualisation or individuation or have many other labels that it may be best not to give or claim, but best to sit with, trying to feel. It may also be a survivor insisting on their humanity.