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Poetic Parklife

Poetic Parklife

I'm always fascinated by the places people write their poetry! I suspect most of us form our ideas in our heads as we go about our daily Domesticities and working lives, but where do you go to shape those mental and scrap paper scribblings into a first draft?


My back already grumbles at me about my posture. I don't need to look at a computer screen so I slump on my bed with a wireless keyboard and type away, listening to what I'm typing as my screen reader reads each word aloud as I type it. I like being in my room, away from the bustle of other people in the house — they certainly don't need to be hearing my early drafting of my poems as I skip backwards and forwards, inserting commas and correcting typos!

Shedding similes

I'm aware of some writer friends who have dedicated writing sheds, breaking a bottle of absinthe over its roof before boarding and sailing away on the poetry ocean. . I think a writing shed would do me the world of good. I wouldn't choose to be unconnected to the online world in my shed, because many times I write poems I need to research information and clarify certain things and I'd need to still do that, but the escape from external distractions would be a blessing. The downside of needing to listen to every word as I type is that, when a house is noisy, it becomes difficult for me to write. White noise is fine because it's constant but household noise is very different, because it is random — there'll be a cupboard door opening, a rattle of cups and plates and then the closing of the cupboard door; loading the dishwasher or running a sink of hot water (the hot water tank is in my room and chortles like a demon when it releases its store), and daily toilette tasks — electronic tooth brushes, shavers, hair driers and flushing toilets, are all short random bursts of noise that make it difficult to keep writing.

The Echoes of the World

Doubly blind in the morning —
showering with hot water
power pumped at a thousand decibels
(raucous compared to a soak in the tub).

Blinded again
wielding the vacuum
its double-u

suctioning all useful sound.

The security-conscious shredder
slicing anything into slivers,
silences the narration
of novels and newspapers
read by my computer
screen reader's voice.

The cacophony of spring
village lawnmowers
wake up and sing duets to the sun

My sight is through sound —
my feet on the floor,
the water filling the kettle,
the boiling transfer into my cup.

The report of my white cane
a smooth swoosh across lino,
abrasive on the path,

muted crossing the border onto the grass.

Life without sight
when the echoes of the world
are swamped.

I love being blind. Listening to words as I type them makes it far easier to spot typos because the ear doesn't tolerate slightly mis-spelled words the way the eye does. I will always remember during GCSE English class, we were shown the following two lines of text:
I love Paris in the
the spring.
The ratio of people spotting the mistake to the number who didn't was heavily in favour of those who didn't; I didn't, did you? (Microsoft Word doesn't flag it up as anything out of the ordinary!) If I was doing that exercise now I couldn't help but hear the two instances of the word ‘the’, whereas the eye-brain connection tends to automatically compensate, ignoring the second ‘the’ because the brain knows it's not vital to your understanding of the line.

I've always typed pretty quickly, generally around 40 to 50 words per minute. In my first proper job, at DVLA in Swansea, all new entrants had to do touch typing training because most roles involved significant amounts of data entry. When I did my vision rehab training at Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta, keyboard familiarisation / touch typing had to be passed before you could move onto the computer training; if you've spent your life sighted and, all of a sudden, find yourself unable to see the letters on the keyboard, it's pretty important to have the ability to touch type.

My weakness is mostly in the top right corner of the letters. I rarely manage to type words ending in -tion correctly — my fingers just don't press the right keys in the right order! This is the bane of my life because I seem to write a lot of tion words ... appicatoin is a frequent one, and a similar twitch appears with the word becasue. Listening to the screen reader say those words means I instantly know I've typed them wrongly — they just don't sound right. It usually takes me two, if not three, attempts to produce the correct word, but at least they don't slip through unnoticed.

Poetry Theme Park

Imagine having a whole park in your city or town in which to write your poetry. When I lived in Bristol, I often used to take a wander into St George Park. I will always remember the tree-lined paths and the benches I used to sit on and ponder my poetic musings :) Sadly I didn't plan ahead for blindness so don't have any photos to share, because they all have cryptic names like dscf00123.jpg, which could be a park, a pint of beer or a band playing in The Fleece!

I do, however, have a photo of a park in Romania when I visited Bucharest for a week in 2004. There were some lovely parks in Bucharest and I'd have loved to have sat in one of them every day to write poetry ... sadly it was the wettest weather I've ever known, so paper would have turned into Papier-mâché before I'd uncorked my pen! This is (I hope) a photo of Parc Circului, opposite dinamo bucuresti football ground. A local artist worked with the dead trees in the park. There was a fabulous atmosphere with parents taking children out for walks. You can also take a virtual walk around the park in this YouTube video of Parc Circului.

Photo of Parc Circului, Bucharest (Romania), taken by Giles L. Turnbull in November 2004.

Park Your Poetry

If you fancy being poet in residence for a week in a London park, keep your eyes on the Poetry School website because, in January this year they took applications for their third year of poetry residencies in parks around London. I've not heard whether applications will open again in January 2018, but it could be a fantastic opportunity to experience being a poet in residence, interacting with the general public while you write your words in inspiring surroundings.

For the last two years, the Poetry School and London Parks and Gardens Trust have teamed up for a poet-in-residence training scheme centred on London’s Gardens. We call the scheme ‘Mixed Borders’.
Julia Bird from the Poetry School and Sarah Hesketh from LPGT (also a poet herself) give participating poets (16 the first year, 30 (!) the second) a thorough how-to-be-a-resident training session, and then each poet is paired up with one of the gardens taking part in June’s Open Garden Squares Weekend. Churchyards, community gardens, rooftop vegetable patches – the various settings inspire new poems, projects, conversations and interventions.

Why not leave a comment about the parks that you've written poetry in, or about. Are we getting driven indoors by the need to work at computers and participate in classroom workshops?

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

If my MA creative writing course application is successful I'll have the enviable opportunity to write in Singleton Park, Swansea, which is right behind the campus. Because I'll be studying creative writing this time rather than chemistry, you'll probably be able to find me sitting on a picnic blanket with my nose buried in an electronic book about uncertainty principles, as part of a thesis on why choosing the right word for a poem is so hard ;)

#Parks #Swansea #Bristol #Bucharest @poetryschool

Published inblindnessPoetrytechnology

One Comment

  1. Frances Browner Frances Browner

    After all the thinking, and writing on scraps of paper; or writing from an exercise I give my creative writing classes, I turn to the computer for the first draft, boring as that may seem. My laptop, on my desk, overlooking the Irish Sea & Wicklow Mountains!

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