My review of the newly published posthumous collection of essays by and tributes to Nigel Jenkins has been published in Nation.Cymru.
I have had a micro-poem (two lines!) published in the Black Bough poetry Christmas and Winter Edition Volume 2. Go and buy it! Or listen to me reading my lines here.
I was very pleased to be awarded the inaugural Nigel Jenkins Literary Award. It was presented at a Swansea Fringe festival event to celebrate the life of Nigel who sadly died of pancreatic cancer in 2014, and to launch a new book of his essays: Damned for Dreaming. The award, created and sponsored by Ali Anwar of the H’mm Foundation, was introduced by Jon Gower, and presented by David Britton (both of Swansea University), after which friends and family of Nigel contributed in music and song, poetry and anecdote. Unfortunately there are no photos of the event as the photographer somehow didn’t account for the fact that participants’ faces were all emblazoned with a bright stripe from a projector, creating a contrast that the camera apparently couldn’t cope with. So I may be instantly and ‘award winning writer’ but sadly there is no visual record of me accepting the very handsome award, created by Rodney Bender of Innovative Glass Products.
A couple of weeks ago this dropped through the letterbox.
I knew it was coming, and I knew what result I’d got a couple of months earlier. I’d briefly considered, and quickly dismissed, sharing the outcome back then, and toyed longer with sharing a photo my foster daughter took of me holding the certificate the day it arrived. I could tell myself that wouldn’t be ‘showing off’, but a sweet little evocation of connection with these children that have come to mean so much to me, but are almost invisible to everyone apart from local friends as I can’t include them on social media. I could have posted the picture with a little self-deprecating jibe of the type that has become a prominent strand of my inner monologue (“At least someone is innocent enough to believe that a middle aged graduate paying thousands for yet another worthless piece of paper is something to be proud of.”)
I might come back to what this qualification is “worth” at some point, but one fairly straightforward answer is that, for me, it isn’t worth much unless I make it pay. I don’t particularly mean ‘pay’ in monetary terms. I reckon the chances of recouping the financial outlay are relatively slim, and close to zero if you factor in the money I could potentially have earned while I was doing the course. But the hope of becoming a paid ‘career writer’ is not why I decided to do it. Whenever I mentioned to anyone about doing an(other!) MA, I usually mentioned something along the lines of having a more serious go at creative writing than I ever had before being ‘an itch I needed to scratch’. When I went to the first meeting of staff and students before I started the course, one of the tutors asked me about why I had joined the course. I said something about lots of people over the course of my life having made comments like ‘you really ought to write a book’, and ‘you should get this published’ on the rare occasions I offered anything up for public consumption. “Is that because you’ve had a particularly interesting life?” he asked. “Well, no – far from it,” I had to answer. “I suppose it’s because I can string words together in a way that at least some people find interesting or ‘clever’, but I’ve never pursued it seriously because I don’t think I have much worth saying.”
I’ve never felt (or perhaps have always suppressed?) the drive to be heard, or even the need to write for oneself, that seems to motivate most writers who do persevere through creative blockages and countless rejections to reach the point of being published.
If nothing else, however, doing this MA has given me… Well, I wrote ‘confidence’ there, but have had to self-edit immediately. I don’t feel ‘confidence’ at all. I feel a mix of things, including a degree of frustration and shame that I still don’t feel ‘confident’. It has given me the understanding that I have no right not to be confident in my writing, even if I can’t (yet?) feel it. It has, however, given me some external validation that I do have somethings to say and someways to say them. At the end of his feedback on my extended writing submission, my tutor quoted from Louise Glück (whom I had in turn quoted in an epigraph to my piece):
didn’t we plant the seeds,from ‘October’
weren’t we necessary to the earth,
the vines, were they harvested?
The seeds have, I suppose, been long planted, and I have been given reason to think I may have vines ready to harvest. I suppose that putting this out there is an attempt to outsource the accountability I am so poor at holding to myself.
(But can I convince myself I am necessary to the earth?
I was asked to contribute to Nation.Cymru’s contributors’ books of the year feature. I became a Nation.Cymru contributor by virtue of being asked to contribute to Nation.Cymru’s contributors’ books of the year feature.
Read it here.