with her poem THRIFT
I was born a Baby Boomer, always in crowded school years but often absent with chronic ill health which meant I could indulge in my mother’s magazines and any books I could find while bed-bound.This seemed to develop an introspection and liking for my own company and got me out of swimming and games.The idea of being a writer grew but accompanied by the knowledge that I didn’t know anything and certainly not enough to write with.This would take years and in the meantime I was expected to fulfil my mother’s wishes and become a teacher.As she died aged 52 I had little choice but to honour this.
To my surprise I enjoyed teaching primary stage children,as they were then called, and worked full time,with one short break until age 60.Young children and the creative arts fit perfectly so I was able to indulge my passions.In the early 70’s I discovered the Mersey Poets and a poem called “Mirror,” by Sylvia Plath which had a profound effect on me.It was some time after I married and my son was born that the verse came thick and fast.I could hardly keep up with the writing of it. Short,marginal stuff but I couldn’t stop reading poetry books by the masters.I have continued to write to the present day and it has been a long apprenticeship.Poetry is inexhaustible and I love its ambiguity and its search for the true.
I have been mainly published in anthologies:Ver Poets,The University of Central Lancashire,Envoi,Marigolds grow wild on platforms etc.Two poems were prize winners in the Lancaster Literature Festival anthologies,one poem won third prize in Ver Poets Open Competition and I was a prize winner in the Bridport Prize International Competition 2006.My volume of poems was published by Headland Publications in 2008. Recently I have adjudicated poetry competitions and have really enjoyed reading, absorbing and reassessing my beliefs and insights.”Poems won from silence.”
When I was a child my parents had a battered, old caravan in an idyll of a place in Cumbria.It was primitive,water from a stream,leaking roof and inefficient oil stove.We children ran wild in the woods,shores and fields,only returning for meals. I still visit this magical,unspoilt area.Earlier this year,walking on the beach I was struck by the sea pinks growing on the rocks and later the memory of the old Threepenny bit with a design of these flowers on the reverse side.Later,trying to write about my mother picking Lily of the Valley,(back breaking work) in the woods to sell on to the florist, I wasn’t making any headway.I had to dig deeper and the word Thrift was the inspiration.The poem is not autobiographical but it resonates with my mother’s struggle in the 1950’s to make ends meet.
It was such a thrill to hear Thrift had been selected for first prize and was a boost to my morale as I had begun to think “sending work out,” should be left to the young.It’s terrifically rewarding to think a recently written poem by a 71 year old can be a winner.I do believe that we are capable of developing and learning until the inevitable and we owe it to ourselves to keep our senses sharp and our minds open to the unusual,the quirky and the great solace that a country walk can bring.
I grew up with the sound
of small change skimming my ears
cutting through the kitchen fug,
the one bulb nightmare
and being caught, for a loaf,
a pint of milk, sugar butties
for tea. My mother
was an expert at this, with one hand
tied she could toss the monies
of her purse and the air would toss
some back. We survived Winter
rolled on to Spring. She spent
all of herself on this circus act. When
I needed a cuddle, a goodnight kiss
she was out with the travelling coins
flying, shrugging want and rain
from her outstretched palms. “It tips
the bailiffs from our tracks,” was all
she would say as I followed
her shadow on some street fending
Lupus from our door.
She practiced her tricks, some low
some high, using the wiring to balance
all books. I wouldn’t look
at how her fingers were starting to split.
There came a day when her hands
fell to shakes, the family dropped
like the coins out of reach…
“Parkinson’s,”the Social said when
we’d asked for the millionth time.
I turned my back to continue her art…
but they took us away.
WHAT THE ADJUDICATOR SAID
This was a strong contender from the start. Without sentimentality and with careful placing of telling details – ‘one bulb nightmare’, ‘I followed her shadow on some street’, ‘her hands fell to shakes’ – the writer tells an ultimately tragic story of poverty and loss with complete assurance. The control of tone and narrative pace is notable – down to the last bald line ‘but they took us away’. An excellent poem.