Reading and Writing, Writing and Reading

A few weeks ago, when I was in the thick of my separation and wondering how I was going to get through the rest of 2020, I made a commitment to myself to designate October as a creative retreat month. I’m not going anywhere, but I am protecting my time to retreat from the world and outside commitments in order to focus on my creative practice.

Due to circumstances, I’ve allowed things to get lost in transition. Focusing on what brings me joy, like reading and writing and creating haven’t been top of my list for ages, it feels. So protecting October, my favourite month of the year, my birth month, as time and space to re-engage with my creative projects and start some new ones felt right for me.

Only a few days into October, and I was inspired in a poetry workshop to attempt #thesealychallenge. This challenge is to read thirty-one poetry books or chapbooks in the thirty-one days of August. I know it’s October but I’m coming late to the party. But I feel this is just what I need to relight my fire, put pen to paper and write poetry.

So far this month, I’ve read 5 poetry collections and chapbooks. What I’m doing while reading is also collecting words, single words which I like the sound of, or I find are being used in new and usual ways. Words that stir my interest and create a reaction.

What this reading is doing is inspiring me to write again. So from just reading other people’s work, immersing myself in the world of poetry again, I’ve created 6 new poems. So I’m going all the way this time, and trying for 31 poems by the end of the month; 31 poems in 31 days.

This has already gotten me through a block, a fear that was starting to take hold of me that I might be only able to write while in crisis, while in an unhappy state. But by producing something over the last few days, I’ve now put that fear to rest. I’m back, reading and writing, writing and reading.

Summer Reading

It’s been a while since I’ve share my reading with you. For a while there I got lost but I enter the changing season with a commitment to myself.

From the bookcase in my bedroom, I made the commitment to read all the books over the next 3 months. I’ve begun. But let’s backtrack and just get a record of the books read over July, August abs September. Not as meant as I’d like, but when you read the titles you’ll see what has been occupying my mind for the last quarter.

July, August and September Readings:

1. Peace from broken pieces – Iyanla Vanzant

2. How to be chic in winter – Fiona Ferris

3. The Autumn House – Alison May

4. The Winter House – Alison May

6. Escape to the French Farmhouse – Jo Thomas

5.

The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well – Louisa Thomsen Brits

7. Break up and shine – Marissa Walter

June Readings

I’ve started, so I’ll finish. My thoughts when I think about coming here to record my readings for last month; June. This is the only way I’m keeping track of what I’m reading in terms of books, and when I started I felt it would be a worthwhile pursuit. Something to look back at, at the end of the year, and be proud at the achievement. At the fact of reading so many books. I didn’t set a target I don’t think. But forgive if I’m wrong as January feels so far away now. And thank God for this practice as I can’t remember what I read back then. Or even last month if I think about it. Hence being here now, before any more days of July rolls by and I haven’t marked down what books I read in June.

So here is the list of completed reads. And I’ve got so many other books on the go at the moment that I won’t be able to share them all, but I’ll share a smattering of them to give you an idea. There have been times when it’s been difficult to concentrate on a long read. I’d read a chapter and then skip off to do something else, or read something else. Concentration and focus have been elusive. I think that’s where poetry collections come into play. Quick and easy and brief.

Books read this month:

1. Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful by Alice Walker

2. Mama Amazonica by Pascal Petit

3. Between the Islands by Philip Gross

4. Hare Soup by Dorothy Molloy

5. Ledger by Jane Hirshfield

6. Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

7. The Creative Doer by Anna Lovid

Books in progress this month:

1. Overstory by Richard Powers

2. Becoming by Michelle Obama

3. Grassling by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

4. The Sea Inside by Philip Hoare

5. Seeing the Body by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

6. Ecotherapy: Healing with nature in mind edited by Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist

Writing Elsewhere

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Since May, I’ve been sharing my writing on Medium. This is a platform I’ve tired a number of times before but for some reason the habit just didn’t stick. I now know this probably had something to do with having nothing really to say. But now I do.

I’ve been contributing to the Binderful Blog, which a small online community of women, started a few years ago, which offers classes to support women questioning their lives. Maybe shaking up the status quo from the kitchen table outwards. I’m due to create a class with Binderful but in the meantime, I’ve been writing on Medium for them.

If you’re interested in checking out what I’ve shared so far then click below to read the articles.

Learning to be Inside

Comfort Reading

Pandemic Food Ways: A Little Sweet Treat

Waiting To Be Allowed In

My Voice is my Weapon

It hurts living on our knees

May Readings

This month was a hard month to concentrate on any longer reads. My reading was bitty and more about current affairs with The Guardian newspaper getting many hits. Other featured websites were The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Orion and The New York Times.
The readings was what it was, what it needed to be to get me through each moment, each day.
The one book I read, while I started many, was A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson. A poetry collection exploring the Grenfell disaster intimately which went on to win the T S Eliot Prize in 2019.

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April Readings

499101E6-7BA1-4776-816D-D64A7195244AMy reading habits this month have been flitting here and there and everywhere. I’ve found it difficult to concentrate and be disciplined enough to see a book through to the end. Being that said, when I did get into a book such as An America Marriage by Tayari Jones, I finished it in a day. Demonstrating that I just needed a book to grab and hold my attention to keep with it. But isn’t that usually the case? This book was fiction, something I’ve not been reading for a couple of months and the main characters were African-American. And it sang from the page right up to the end.
Still got all the books I’ve started this year on the go. Nature non-fiction book really, linked to my work, so with the lockdown, it makes perfect sense that I’m not rushing to complete these.
Here’s April’s readings:

1. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
2. Afro-Persimism: An Introduction by Frank B. Wilderson III
3. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Dr Joy Degruy
4. All Yarrow Magdalena’s zines
5. Black Girl Magic edited by Mahogany L. Browne, Idrissa Simmonds, and Jamila Wo

March Reading

March has come to an end. Even though it’s felt like the longest month from hell, someone on twitter mentioned 36 years and 9 months in length, my reading hasn’t been as steady as I’d like.

Please excuse me if my mind has been otherwise occupied. If news bulletins and articles and live updates were in book form then this month I would have consumed thousands of volumes as I seemed to have taken up residence at The Guardian news website. It is constantly on refresh. I’m taking care of myself though by having days when I do not consume the news, I stay away from social media and literally inhale positive, feel good art and literature and music. I highly recommend it during these troubling times. anyway, on to what I have read.

Completed March readings include:

1. Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, poems by Jake Skeets

2. Swims by Elizabeth Jane Burnett

3. There are more beautiful things than Beyonce by Morgan Parker

4. Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson

5. Splinters are Children of Wood by Leia Penina Wilson

6. Life without Diabetes – Roy Taylor

7. Fleshing Out the Narrative – Marielle S. Smith

 

Ongoing March reading include;

1. The Last Wolf – Jim Crumley

2. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

3. Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore – Patrick Barkham

4. Blue Mind by Wallace J Nichols

5. The Northumbrians by Dan Jackson

6. 8 Master Lessons of Nature – by Gary Ferguson

The Pause

“The meaning of the Inuit word “qarrstiluni” conjures up a striking image: “sitting together in the dark, waiting for something to happen.” Teju Cole shares the word in his On Being conversation, and I’ve been drawn to it in the months and weeks since COVID-19 began affecting communities across the world. The pandemic has exposed how interconnected and interdependent we are as humans. Everyday practices, like handwashing and covering our sneezes, have become the most basic duty we owe to friends and strangers alike. And we’re finding thoughtful ways to care for one anotheramidst the tumult.”

The Pause, the newsletter from On Being . Subscribe now for more.

February Reading

With this extra day in February, I take the time to write and read and reflect. This month has flown by and I’ve started more books than finished I think. But I’m not too fussed as I know I am reading more and widely to feed my curiosity as well as provide food for my own writing; inspiration.

Completed February readings include:

1.Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (99U)

2. Longstone – LJ Ross

3. The Hermitage – LJ Ross

4. The Mating Habits of Stags – Ray Robinson

5. Blogging for Authors – Nina Amir

Ongoing February reading include;

1. The Last Wolf – Jim Crumley

2. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

3. Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore – Patrick Barkham

4. Life without Diabetes – Roy Taylor

5. Aphrodite’s Magic – Jane Meredith

6. Surfacing -Kathleen Jamie

7. Fleshing Out the Narrative – Marielle S. Smith

8. 8 Master Lessons of Nature – Gary Ferguson