I'm reading Jeffrey Meyers' biography of the poet Robert Frost (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, New York, 1996). Frost talked about his creative process as being like sliding down a hill on a sled. Though, even if he claimed to write poems at one sitting, he would take his time in revision, focusing on the sounds and rhythms (pages 82-83).

He also said that some of his poetry became inspired by "little voices like hallucinations, many going around you. You begin to phrase your feelings... Words haunt you." (Page 83).

I have two voices now for my Minotaur poem, the Minotaur's mother and her slave. I hear them both, their different cadences, I can even see an image of how the two women look from how they speak. I'm thinking the Minotaur's mother will use disjointed free verse, imprisoned as she is in her dark cavern, while her slave will use the more studied rhythms of epic poetry.

"So praised once in heroic couplets,
blank verse will have to suffice this long day
to tell her story, to chart her demise.
I was once slave to a beauteous queen,
now I am merely maid to the Minotaur's mother."
Warning: a poem still under construction!

I am surprised to find that Frost emphasised the emotional connection wrought by poetry. "If you wish me to weep, you must grieve yourself," Frost wrote. "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." (Page 85). This sentiment doesn't quite seem to fit with his formal approach (and criticism of free verse) nor with his era, but I am very glad to read it.
There is definitely an Autumn tang in the air and I feel like hibernating. Yet this is a very busy time for me as the teaching gets under-way again. I've often wondered why the academic year starts up, just when most normal mammals would be heading for their caves.

At present I am finishing off the project which didn't quite recruit in the Spring, I am running three creative writing workshops for a group of women who suffer from Persistent Pelvic Pain. I have a frighteningly robust physical constitution, but interestingly on Monday I got the most excruciating gut-ache which bent me double for at least ten minutes. It was, of course, nothing serious, but I can't help connecting it with the work I am doing with the pelvic pain group.

Yesterday we did an exercise describing an emotion using all the senses. We all wrote down an emotion and answered (as un-thinking as possible) questions such as: what does this emotion taste like? Smell like? What temperature is it? Where does it live? What feeds it? Then we spent five minutes playing with the words we had on our paper.

I chose "joy":

Cool joy
hides in meadow sweet,
sucks over-ripe mangoes
until juice-drenched.
It is malign,
not always there when I need it.
Though bigger than a tractor,
lighter than pollen,
it slides under stones
when the field is churned.
Flash Fiction


I've had a grizzly bad press. Taking little girls and killing off old grannies. As if. Yeah, I'm no good, but that don't make me bad.

We're not liked, our family, it's the smell mostly and 'cos there's a whole pack of us. But I'm a bit of a loner. If I'd stuck with the others I wouldn't be in the trouble I'm in. Being on my own, that's how I witnessed it. Saw and heard, nothing more. That's on my mother's grave if she had one, which she doesn't; we found her stripped skeleton after the snows cleared.

Along comes Ms Red in her long bright cape, that bit, at least, they've got right. She wasn't skipping, though, are you kidding me? Too many Kentucky Frieds meant Ms Red was apt to saunter, under protest, to her Grandmother's house every Sunday. And who could blame her? Granny Red wasn't what you might call sweet, whatever they said in her obit.

So I heard it. Granny Red screeching, "You're ugly. No-one loves you." Then the silence, which I would later call "awful". Though it was what happened next which was awful. Granny Red got the iron poker embedded in the back of her skull, her scrawny grey hair lathered with blood and brain.

Then I saw her. Ms Red running. And she must have seen me.

Luckily most people get another bit of the tale wrong as well: my punishment. Though drowning might have been preferable to being eternally condemned to representing the archetypal evil doer. Like that? Yeah, I've had some education since coming in here. And I've had a lot of time to think. And what I think is that not all hoodies are wolves and we have plenty enough of a wolf inside each of us.


Where does a poem come from? William Blake believed in divine intervention, but also that all that was divine resided in our (or only his?) imagination.

I am playing around with a poem about the Minotaur's mother. I can plot its development fairly clearly. I went to an art exhibition where there was a kinetic sculpture of the Minotaur. Alongside it was a potted version of the myth which stated that the Minotaur was conceived when his mother had an illicit affair with a prize bull, after which she was condemned to live in the labyrinth with her off-spring. Now this sparked something in me. A woman, a mother, giving birth to a monster and then imprisoned to watch him grow. How interesting.

I began to note down some ideas. And I was reminded of Jo Shapcott's 'Mrs Noah: Taken After the Flood', as well as some of Carol Ann Duffy's 'The World's Wife'. I liked the idea of taking on the voice of someone lost to "history" and I wanted to infuse my poem with the subtle sexuality which Shapcott so expertly manages.

At the moment this poem is just notes in my writing journal. It is becoming attached to thoughts around being caught, mazes, watching love turn into a terrifying creature. In terms of form, I am considering something more epic than I usually write, with mythic language to echo its origins.

Meanwhile, I am buzzing creatively, with a number of projects on the go. It is exciting. It is invigorating.