Let's start with a couple of posts to look forward to:
- I went to a workshop last Sunday (that's why there weren't no blog post last Sunday) in Presteigne. It was led by poet Rhiannon Hooson and we spent 10am to 3:30pm working on ekphrastic poems. Other than telling you that ekphrastic poems are ones that respond to works of visual art, such as drawings, paintings and sculpture, you'll have to wait for more information on the workshop because I've been asked to blog about it elsewhere. I'll post the link once I've written the post and it's gone live :)
- I've also been asked to write a blog post for RNIB's website, talking about my journey into blindness and how that's affected my poetry. Again, links to that will be posted when I've written it and it's published :)
- I'm about ready to submit my application to study MA creative writing at Swansea University next year. I tried to register an account to use the On Track online application system, and ... the website simply doesn't work successfully using my screen reader. The online helpdesk lady was very lovely at responding to my troubles, but there aren't really any solutions. I asked my mum to enter my email address and password and press the register button, and for her it worked. I then tried to login on my own tablet using my screen reader and it generated some gobbledygook about missing parameters. If I successfully register as a student and find these problems still in place next year, I'll kick their system hard in its parameters!!!!
Once Upon a Time
Back at the start of 2017 I wrote a post titled The Forgetful Poet's Tale, in which I gave a talk to a group in Abergavenny, introducing them to some of the talking devices that make my life more accessible. The highlight came after I'd finished, when a blind girl called Ceri came and chatted to me about these devices, all of which she found fascinating.
She loved my book reading device. It's about the size of an old style mobile phone, and has a phone-style number pad plus various other buttons; I remember her fingers exploring those buttons. The atmosphere was too hectic to let Ceri use the device in action, but I looked forward to meeting up with her at a later date, where she could hear it reading a story she knew, and she could try using the navigation buttons to jump forward and backwards by line, word or character. Sadly we ran out of time for that to happen.
Ceri developed a brain tumour and went completely blind at three and a half years old, just before her second major operation. The tumour was near the hypothalamus and pituitary and when the tumour was removed the surgeon had to cut away the optic nerves. her doctors thought it unlikely that she'd see her teens. I suspect that's why the world seemed such an enthralling place to her in her teens and twenties; she was fascinated by everything.
Ceri had a shunt in her brain to allow it to drain. My understanding is that, a few months ago, her epileptic fits had become so frequent that the doctors decided to replace and reposition the shunt in the hope of reducing the frequency. Ceri was on the same intensive care ward as I had been when I had my kidney and pancreas transplant back in 2013. I knew she was sedated so I wouldn't be able to talk to her, but I went to the ward after one of my kidney clinic appointments in the hope I could sit with her a while. The doctors were on their ward rounds at the time so I asked the nurses to pass on my good wishes, and that was the last time I was with Ceri.
Ceri did get moved off the intensive care ward but only for a short time. Although I obviously couldn't see the photo, I loved hearing about it when it was posted by one of her sisters on Facebook, showing Ceri's fingernails, each painted a different colour, and her sister's nails painted to match.
Dedication to Poetry
I'm not sure I know any poets who think that once a poem is finished it's finished. I'm forever tinkering with lines that seemed okay at final draft, only to feel not-quite-right six months down the line.
At Ceri's funeral service the Minister reflected on the simplicity and profundity of death. This seemed too perfect a fit, given the end of the yellow stanza in the poem below, so that afternoon I added a dedication to my poem, Colours, which shows how blind people can, and do, have favourite colours.
In memory of Ceri Joy Hayward (January 1989 - November 2017)
The tickle under barefoot feet
is green, emerald in the sun, viridian in the shade.
The skies are cerulean, singing
with birds and be-anything clouds.
Grey are the paths and brown the park benches,
on which linger the people you've never met,
the conversations you'll one day have.
Yellow is the warmth that wraps an arm around your shoulders,
quiet and happy,
simple, and simultaneously profound.
Black is the unknown,
the vacuum of someone gone,
the fears we do not like to own.
Pink is a birthday, immediately unwrapped,
giddy with ribbons and party friends,
the kind of day that runs until we're super tired, then ends,
collapsing into purple shades and closing eyes.
The stories and the dreams, white,
the sheet of paper, the field of snow,
waiting for footprints to bite.
This heart, red like nothing else,
the essence of danger, love and life.
Life in Colour
Ceri's dad, Ian, told me this:
We played 'I can sing a rainbow' at the crematorium in the morning. The support workers from the home Ceri lived in told us that she would sing it every morning in the shower.
At the crematorium they came dressed in different colours, red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue. They couldn't come in the afternoon because they had to go to London to an award ceremony where they won team of the year. We had nominated them for the award for the way they looked after Ceri.
I'm delighted how much of Ceri's essence her family find in my poem. Sister Caz and father Ian tell me her favourite colour was pink and the pink stanza sums Ceri up to a T. Sister Beth tells me that she finds Ceri in the yellow stanza. As I look back at the colours I use in my poem, all the colours of the rainbow song are there, with the exception of orange. I edited blue into cerulean after the service because it seemed a more exciting choice and I took the liberty of assuming Ceri would have loved to have a cerulean jumper rather than a blue one :)
I'd love to say I wrote the whole poem for Ceri, but it was first drafted before I'd met Ceri. I love to think that maybe Ceri had stirred up cosmic vibrations that reached me ahead of her person. I suspect I may be writing future poems inspired by Ceri's presence. RIP Ceri Joy Hayward, our paths crossed fleetingly but the memory remains indefinitely xxx