Monday, May 31, 2010

BIG Thanks

Thanks so much to everyone who posted their 'three things' over the last week. I've been inspired by reading your words, by the inherent power that resides in the precise observation of everyday things, events, memories. I know I'll be reading them all again.

I have to take a break from AppleHouse for a couple of weeks. My poor Mam, in Wales, has had a fall and a hip replacement and isn't doing too well in hosiptal and I'm flying back on 1st June to see her and hopefully be there for when she goes home where I can look after her for a little while. I'm not sure how long I'll be away but hope to be back posting and chatting to you all by the middle of June.

Keep writing well.
L x

Sunday, May 30, 2010

7 Day Writing Challenge - Day 7

Already at the end? The week's gone toooo quick : )

1. tree roots push up the tarmac on Chemin de Sable we have things to say

2. I buy strawberries, but not any strawberries. I buy Gariguette strawberries whose scent can be detected through the cellophane wrapper. A barquette of red hearts, small, soft, aromatic. And the lady at the greengrocer's gives me a rose - Bonne fete, she says. It is Mothers' Day this weekend, and even though I am no-one's mother I still get a long stemmed, peach rose. Strawberries and roses. Kindness and sunshine.

2. We go to Juan les Pins tonight and drink rose wine at the bar and eat the little plates of amuse-guele that the Bar Crystal serves with drinks between 6 and 8pm: green olive tapenade, pizza squares, plates that keep coming, and coming, because Lionel, the barman, likes us. So many plates we need no dinner.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

7 Day Writing Challenge - Day 6

1. When Magda speaks she tosses her long, blonde hair, primps her lips, tightens her eyes. Today she wears a fuscia pink shirt. Yesterday, a black Calvin Klein t-shirt. Her eyelids are perfectly outlined, an exquisite tick upwards at the corners. I can't help staring when she runs one hand through her hair, when she brings both of them together in front of her on the table. Still. When she looks at me I feel she is really listening to what I have to say.

2. grass cuttings and puddles over the paving stones the cat flicks its tail

3. On her 6th day in hospital my mother sounds tired but positive. 'No more sentiment,' she says, 'I'm getting rid of the walnut headboard and footboard and buying an electric bed.' The boards match the his and her wardrobes and dressing table, the bedroom suite she's had since she was married in 1952. The suite that I have always known in this house where I was born. The wood is smooth, rich and dark, the grain patterned with knots and whorls. My parents' bedroom is at the back of the house and in my memory it is always in shade. Walking in there made me feel like whispering.

Friday, May 28, 2010

7 Day Writing Challenge - Day 5

Sorry, I'm a bit late today...

5th Day. Nearly there. Don't give up : )

1. A few red poppies between the leylandai at the edge of the garden, and one, completely on its own, in the centre of the lawn, though by the time I walk out to look at it close up the petals have been blown from the stem, or brushed off by the cat, and scattered in the grass. Such things that are beautiful but so quickly disappear.

2. Trim the fat from a magret de canard, score the skin in a diamond pattern, press crushed green and black peppercorns, crushed coriander and cardamom seeds into the flesh. Cook in a hot skillet, skin side down to burn off the fat, for 6 minutes, then turn and cook for 6, 7 or 8 minutes depending on whether you like it rare, medium, or well done. Let it rest on a wooden board for 5 minutes. Fry thin slices of apple in a small amount of butter for 1 or 2 minutes on each side. By now the juices will have started to ooze from the duck. Slice the duck thinly and fan out on the cooked apple. It was delicieux.

3. an armful of fresh laundry these days I feel I am waiting for things to happen

Thursday, May 27, 2010

7 Day Writing Challenge - Day 4

About the challenge.

1. Our first two, tiny, green, plum tomatoes on the plant in the pot where a line of ants tracks to, twice a day, from the rosemary bush at the edge of the terrace, across the paving stones, under the wooden slatted sunbed, and over the cat, if she happens to be sitting there, in the shade.

2. On my desk: a pension letter from HSBC, a black and white photograph of me at 22, an open diary with my brother's birthday marked on 31 May, a calculator, a mobile phone and charger, my glasses, the latest copy of the Frogpond journal, two retractable pencils whose rubber ends have gone hard, a cup of coffee, lukewarm, a list of french and english vocabulary for my hairdresser, a note of the hospital phone number and address where my mam is recovering after a fall and hip replacement, magnetic letters from which I've made the word 'MUCH'.

3. Lots of people keep their shutters closed here, not just at night, or when they're out, or away from home, but during the day when they're there. I think of secrets, of drawers with keys. Of looking over shoulders. Once, at a neighbour's drinks party, a woman got up and left when favourable talk of Marechal Petain began.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

7 Day Writing Challenge - Day 3

Read about the challenge here.

1. The cat refuses to walk in her new red harness that straps around her neck and also around her body so she can't slip the lead when she travels back to the UK in the car. But the red is such a good colour against her black coat, or 'robe' as her french passport says - 'robe noir'. It makes me think of Coco Chanel and her little black dress.

2. A salad of rocket and fresh pear and soft blue cheese on a white china plate with two slices of crusty pain de campagne.

3. Wind rushes through the house today, doors slam from the pantry to the attic, windows, left ajar, shake and rattle. Outside, the palm tree fronds bounce and thrash, the sun umbrella flaps like a prehistoric green bird.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

7 Day Writing Challenge - Day 2

You can read about the challenge here.

1. A man wearing an apron and a crash helmet runs from the bakery with a brown paper sack of baguettes and jumps on his scooter.

2. Some distance away but what must be a large crab scuttling across the lowest stone step on the quay at Le Bleu Royale restaurant and plopping into a sparkling sea.

3. The sound of my husband having breakfast in the kitchen downstairs, a spoon clattering against a china bowl, the bowl knocking against the wooden table. A chair scraped back.

Monday, May 24, 2010

7 Day Writing Challenge - Day 1

If you haven't already, you can read about the challenge here.

1. The tiny asian boy, who can't be more than two, standing in my line at the Intermarche supermarket, is chewing on the crusty end of a baguette broken off by his older brother whose arms are filled with bread.

2. Outside the cafe/boulangerie at L'Ilette a woman quickly slides the skinny strap of her red t-shirt back up onto her pale shoulder.

3. The fresh, emerald green growth at the tips of the young leylandai curl over, too slight to bear their own weight yet.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Another 7 Day Writing Challenge. Are you up for it?

Those of you relatively new to AppleHouse might not know of two previous 7 Day Writing Challenges, here and here. They weren't as arduous as they might sound! And I'd like to try something similar for the next 7 days. I hope you'll join in and post something for as many of the 7 days as you can.

I've been reading Kim Addonizio's Ordinary-Genius and one of her chapters is called 'three observations'. She says, 'Training our awareness is important, not only for writing, but for experiencing life moment to moment.' She talks about how easily her thoughts can turn on themselves, 'like a cat licking and licking its fur, obsessively grooming', and how making herself really 'see' three things, in detail, helps her tune into the world.

So, each day for the next 7 days, until the end of May, I'm going to post 3 things I have observed, and I invite you to post yours. We may not write a poem in response to our observations, but an image may stick and turn up in one at some point. But even if we end up using nothing we've written, there is no waste in writing because we have been engaged in the act that connects us to the world. There is nothing wasteful about that.

If you do decide to join in and you don't already follow the blog, then it might help if you do become a follower, as then you'll receive an email notification of my daily post.

I'm going to remove the spam protector (Comment Moderation) for the next week too. It seems that the mysterious japanese spammer has left the building, and I much prefer the spontaneity of being able to see your posts immediately on the blog.

Look out for the first of 7 posts tomorrow, Monday 24th May.

Write well.
L x

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What will be done

I really look forward to receiving the daily emails from The Writer's Almanac. Not just for the poems, because sometimes I'm not that taken with the choice, but also for the news items. If you don't subscribe then you might want to.

The second prompt of the month is in response to Betsy Johnson-Miller's poem, 'What a mouth will do', that arrived this morning:

What a mouth will do

the impossible hope that love
will last. An end to looking
as if for one glove.

Swallow the sweet
lust of fruit—one way a body

can be pleased.

Tell others why.

Tell others nothing.

Feel the tongue and how
and mercy can flow
like a river from the north

or how it can rage as only rage can

and know there isn't much to say
after that.

Betsy Johnson-Miller
from Rain When You Want Rain
© Mayapple Press, 2010

My prompt it to write about 'Hands'. You might want to use a similar title. 'What hands will do', or you might choose your own direction and title.

Here's a poem of mine that explores 'hands' but, for me, acts as an extended metaphor for trying to rid myself of something.

Letting The Side Down

I am making a map of my left hand –
drawing a line past my wrist, around
the starburst of thumb and fingers.
I circle in nails, mark the flex of tendons,
folds of knuckles, each freckle and vein.

I want to have something to remember it by –
this useless hand that cannot write, or eat
alone, or catch a ball, this hand that shrinks
from meeting people, that sometimes hides
beneath tables and curls to a limp fist.

It is less than my left foot, my left eye;
at least they have a go at competing
with the right; this hand doesn’t even try,
it trembles with the grip of scissors,
fumbles at doors, a full cup.

Stupid hand - I’ll be better off without it.
Look how confidently the right grips
a knife, not a tremor, not even when
steel breaks skin; how unselfishly
it wraps itself around the stump.

Lynne Rees
from Learning How to Fall

Write well.
L x

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Who are we?

This is an exercise that the wonderful Catherine Smith set during one of the original AppleHouse Poetry Workshops in the apple orchard studio at my home in the UK. It's a challenge, you'll see that. But it does force you to make every word count, to choose language that can suggest the most.


I have crossed an ocean
I have lost my tongue
from the root of the old one
a new one has sprung

Grace Nichols

Is this the poet's epilogue to her life so far, as she stands in it and looks back? It also reads as a very compact biography.

Can you write your biography with similar economy?

Let's be kind to ourselves and allow another two lines, if we need them.

Write well.
L x