Mentoring 3

Sun again. And Macc looks lovely. Does leaving a place makes it look different? The prospect of absence makes the spectacles rosier, or something…


In London it was warm enough to sit in the Friends House courtyard. Mimi said she now associates Friends House with me and sunshine. 🙂

I’d sent her a second attempt at a draft pamphlet, plus some additional poems which might replace any that we decided didn’t fit. Based on that she’d come up with a third version. She’d liked my substitution and some of my reordering. And she’d liked some of the additional poems and thought they could fit too. So now we had to ponder… Should we stick with 24 poems or push the boat out and go for 26?

In the end (you knew it) we went for the latter option, dropping one poem which now felt heavy alongside the others, and adding three new ones. I felt like I was beginning to get the hang of thinking about selecting and ordering: thinking about how poems look together on a double page; about the transition between poems; and about creating/maintaining a ‘field’ of mood/tone throughout the pamphlet in the way I’d think about a field of vocabulary in an individual poem.

On the theme of mood/tone etc we talked about something Mimi had said in our previous session and which I’d kept thinking about since: ‘Sometimes the person we are as a poet isn’t the same as the person we are as a person.’ Or words to that effect. We discussed that there seems to be a part of ourselves that is the bit that produces poetry. We might want to write from a different bit of ourselves but then when we run a poetry geiger counter over what we’ve produced, there’s no crackling and the needle doesn’t move.

We went through a few niggles I had about some of poems: the odd word, a comma that suddenly looked weird. And we changed a couple of titles.

Then we went through the whole sequence again and decided we liked it.

And then it was the end of our last session. It has gone so quickly. I really hope to have the opportunity to work with Mimi in the future.

In the couple of hours before my train I walked to the British Museum. I hadn’t been since its reopening in 2000. The Great Court is amazing. Uplifting architecture.


It wasn’t long before closing so I didn’t have time to see much but I wandered through ‘Greek and Roman’ and a collection of clocks. One of my poems states ‘I like circles best’ and based on the photos I took, that seems to be true. I also loved images of women weaving. In Athens, 2500 years ago.

I walked back via Russell Square where two lovely girls were selling cookies to raise money for their youth club in Swiss Cottage, so that ‘people will come and teach us things’. And people were chatting in the sun and sitting with their backs against trees, reading. And there was a fountain. In a circle.



Mentoring 2

Is it not going to be sunny and warm every time I go to That London? Brrrrr.


I hate to admit it, but it got sunnier as I travelled southwards and London was definitely warmer than Macclesfield. But so many people!


With my habitual hour to spare I made a ‘Wellcome detour’ (their terrible pun, not mine) to the Wellcome Collection in Euston Road. The Electricity: The Spark of Life Exhibition is brilliant and well worth a visit. It includes not only fascinating information but also wonderful devices in glass and brass; old light bulbs from the John Ryland’s Library; films of Berlin in the 1920s and a video of a frog in zero gravity. Open till 25 June and free.

The shop is fabulous too. Very tempted by ‘Ada Twist, Scientist’ and ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer’ in the children’s section.

And then it was time to meet Mimi. Friends House café provided us with hospitality again.

I’d sent Mimi a suggested selection of poems for the pamphlet, plus a few new/stuck poems to discuss. We started by looking at the pamphlet poems. I’d been quite flummoxed by the task of selection. In the end I’d taken a sequence of poems which I knew I wanted to include and then thought of the field of words, moods, themes in which the sequence would sit. (The ‘field’ was a term Mimi had used at Arvon in relation to the vocabulary of a poem.)

By and large Mimi liked my selection, which was a great relief. We talked about the ones that didn’t work, and why. Then we went through each poem individually, discussing words/sections/rhythms that might need editing, and also starting to think about sequence. Mimi’s suggestion was to ‘order a pamphlet the way you would order a poem’, not to place oneself above the poems and sequence them according to some idea of ‘theme’.

With the time we had left at the end of the session we looked at the new/stuck poems. I really feel that the mentoring is giving my confidence with both writing and editing. It’s lovely to discuss my writing in detail with someone who writes so well and has read so much! I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to finalise the selection during the next session. Phew.

Outside, London was London.

Mentoring 1

I went down to That London this week for my first mentoring session with Mimi Khalvati ( Here she is, being lovely on another occasion.


It was that day when we thought Spring had arrived, but actually she’d just popped in for a quick cuppa before dashing off somewhere else.

Anyway, I set off from Macclesfield in brilliant sunshine after taking my first-ever selfie to mark the occasion. It may also be the last ever.



I had time before the meeting to pop down and have a look at the not-so-new-now British Library which I’ve never even able to get to before. Gorgeous.



Met Mimi in the Friends House café just opposite Euston ( It’s great – central and friendly and open to all.

It was warm enough to sit outside so we moved to the courtyard which was suitably quiet
for discussing poetry… and contained a banner of one of my favourite Quaker maxims.

I’d sent Mimi 30 poems a couple of weeks before our meeting – all either new or ‘stuck’, none which I considered ‘finished’. We began the session talking about my writing strengths and weaknesses as they had become clear to Mimi from this batch. This helped me to see where I get stuck in the editing process; and I felt Mimi hit the nail on the head when she said that I rush to get out of the poem. I know it really; I need to stay in it longer and see what happens. But it’s hard, holding on to the confidence in the poem, like holding my breath under water…

Then we worked through the poems one by one. Some just needed a couple of extra commas, some needed to lose a couple of stanzas. Some needed to be abandoned, in a very loving way.

The three-plus hours went by so quickly! But we managed at the end to set out a plan for the next two sessions in April and May, so I’ll be all ready in June to work with Lisa Lorenz and learn about the risograph and start thinking about design and font and shapes and colours… Can’t wait. Also terrified.

Saw this outside Euston as I made my way back. And so many people! I was glad to be going back to Macc and my hills.