Talk talk

Sometimes that’s all I seem to do. Talk, talk, talk. And I get paid for it. I’m feeling a bit odd about w riting the blog this week, because for the first time, nobody read it last week – nobody at all. I do wonder about this; sometimes 17 people read it; often 6 or 8 people do; and now zero.

Ah well, I’ll just carry on, even if I’m talking to myself. As it happens, on Monday I didn’t talk much at all. I was at home in the morning, writing emails and doing prep, and didn’t speak to anyone, and at the hospital in the afternoon I worked with a woman who would hardly let me get a word in at all – a real character.

Tuesday was different, running a poetry group at the prison and doing one-to-one sessions with a prisoner and a member of staff. I have to hide away in a little office, just slightly bigger than an airing cupboard, where I can get on with stuff in silence. I need silence. I was running a course in Yate the next day; more talk; more listening. The course went really well, though, much better than the one the week before. I’ve realised that you can often tell right at the start of a course who is going to give the bad feedback; they have what the small daughter of a friend of mine calls “upside-down smiles”. They look sour when they arrive; they are determined not to participate; not surprisingly, they get less out of it than those who come with an open mind. I could understand it if they had been forced to come, but the one on Wednesday had, I know, chosen to be there. No pleasing some people.

On Thursday I was forced to be at home because my car was in the garage to have a new cambelt fitted. I had a long call with my manager from The Reading Agency; a long call with a Poetry on Loan person; a long call with The Daughter; and a long call with The Son. In between these marathon talking sessions I managed to grind away at the emails and the prep, and did my best to talk Greek in the evening. Not a pretty sound.

On Friday my dentist took a delight in talking to me while his hands were in my mouth, taking an impression for a new crown. “It’s the best thing about this job,” he said. “You can say anything you like and people can’t answer.” Fortunately my mouth was unnumbed in time for my afternoon session at the doctors’ surgery. All three of the ladies were there. They all claimed that their minds were completely blank before proceeding to come up with great ideas. I keep telling them – if you can talk about it, you can write about it, and they have no problems at all with the talking side.

And finally, on Saturday, I was a speaker at a Writers’ Conference. Well, it was only five minutes, and then answering questions as a member of a panel, but it was flattering to be asked. Another workshop in Solihull followed. Now, most of the people who came to this workshop, and the one before, have real potential. They have a feeling for words, and an unspoken understanding of what poetry is for. But every now and then, you come across a person who just doesn’t get the point, somehow; they really can’t do it and probably never will be able to. I know that there are a lot of people who would disagree with me on this, but I think there is an element of objectivity in judging poetry. There are some people who could never sing. It’s painful to listen to them, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to sing if they enjoy doing it. So what do I do with the hopeless poets? I tell them that their poems are valuable as an expression of their feelings, and gently try to guide them toward a different way of writing, even though I know there is no hope that they will ever get a poem published, which is what they would like. As long as they keep enjoying it, that’s fine. The problem is that they tend to take up a disproportionate amount of time in workshops, and you have to make sure that the other people get a fair deal. It’s not just the talk, it’s what goes behind it that’s important, I guess, in my jobs.

And a girly chat rounded off the week – an hour or so with The Daughter, drinking coffee and looking at clothes. Almost like a little holiday. But oh! for a silent beach or hillsaide, where only the wind and the waves are talking.

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