Author Archives: stephaniegerra

About stephaniegerra

I am a poet, novelist, salon hostess and enterprising organiser of: spoken word and music events; writers' workshops; literary supper parties and bespoke consultations for budding writers.

Resurrecting a poem: You

 

/1

You stand in the reeds that tickle your cheeks.  Everything is taller than you,

the grass, the fence, the trees, the bush, the wall.  There is gold everywhere.

Buzzing things glint as they flit and zuzz and you move your head to their

dance.  You stare up as the clouds drift.  When you first notice them falling

off the edge of the sky you are filled with a wonder so deep you understand

God and when you stare at the sun little, white tadpoles dart on the bright

green light inside your eyelids.

/2

You are free.  You and the air are one speeding over the vault,

your fear, a tight hub in your throat, the still point, as you turn like a wheel.

When you land well, arms up in a ‘V,’ happy heat spokes out of your chest;

the rays of the gymnast-queen, you are at least one whole inch taller.

You spend lunchtime recess upside down doing handstands.

For months there is nothing else.  Then Alisdair Reynolds says,

“You’ve got tits!” And next time going over the vault the PE teacher says,

“Well, well young lady you aregrowing up!” Your big wheels stop.

You curl up like a woodlouse.  She buys you your first bra, takes you to see

Jesus Christ Superstar.  He buys you a gold ring with a sapphire in it.

It’s too important to wear, so it stays in its serious box for years.

Much sooner than your friends you bleed, it makes you quiet.

The world smells different. You dance to ‘I Will Survive’ until the spins

cancel you out. They clap in a circle around you until it’s their turn to go in

the middle.  You want to rub bits of yourself out with the eraser on the end

of your pencil.  You pierce your ears instead.  You write poetry about

snakes.  You start to love French.

/3

You want to leave but can’t.  The others have untangled themselves, but

your ravels are like spaghetti and stickier to loosen.  Your friends have been

bought a duvet cover from Habitat, potted plants, pots and pans.

You move but only half way out to a flat around the corner.  

You go, but have not gone.  You are neither here nor there.  You join in.  

You stay apart.  And it is not you that in winter faints after a very hot bath

in the coldest house in South London.  You act, you read, you write.

/4

He is tall.  He belongs to another.  He wakes your heart, where inside now a

bird drums her wings on your breastbone.  It is Easter. You are crucified

with longing. You are a virgin.  An, old one.  You go back with more books

and a new hat. He talks to you and you find out that he is now free.  You are

paralysed.  He isn’t and walks 13 miles back to his digs in Deptford into the

early-morning darkness after talking to you until 3am in your parents’

downstairs kitchen.  You held hands.  You fear you will not match up.  A

confident beauty is already scoping him out, his previous lovers were all

long-thighed goddesses with glabrous skin.  You hold hands. You decide. 

You take a bloody risk.  There is no poetry it is matter of fact.  If it’s

like that again he may have second thoughts.  It isn’t. He doesn’t. But your

father can no-longer look you in the eye.


Feathers may be stirring but editorial eye is still a bit sleepy

Shudda read the poem out loud before posting.  Here’s the corrected version:

Cover me with warm, red earth to bake my grief

My father has died, my father has died

Tamp my body with heavy, wet earth for stillness and quiet beneath the leaves

My father has died, my father has died

Stop my eyes, fill my mouth and ears with hot, dry sand, to mute wind-blown dagger thoughts that jab my brain, scoop out my heart and scrape my soul

My father has died, my father has died

Fill me with all the world’s wettest soil, then stone heavy, seal me in a pitch-dark kiln

and bury me beneath everything

My father has died, my father has died


Been quiet for a while but getting ready to shake those tail feathers again

I am counter-seasonal this year.  As leaves fall and nature prepares for retreat into winter, I feel a fizz of energy coming on and a sense of expansion and possibilty, especially where writing is concerned.  I have just finished a brilliant online course, Plotstormers II: The Editing Strikes Back and am on the first leg of another, Publishing 101, both, provided by the most excellent, sweary, super-bargainous and enormously helpful, WritersHQ.  Seriously, check them out if you need a bit of stimulating and expert handholding as you set pen to paper on your latest project.

So, that’s a weeny snippet of an update from me, which is all for now, as I need to get back to my editing but/and here’s an offering to you of a scribbled first draft of a poem.  Warning.  It’s not cheerful because it’s about bereavement.

 

Cover me with warm, red earth to bake my grief

My father has died, my father has died

Tamp my body with heavy, wet earth for stillness and quiet beneath the leaves

My father has died, my father has died

Stop my eyes and fill my mouth and ears with hot, dry sand, wind-blown by dagger thoughts that jab my brain, scoop out my heart and scrape at my soul

My father has died, my father has died

Fill me with all the world’s wettest soil, then stone heavy, seal me in a pitch-dark kiln

and bury me beneath everything

My father has died, my father has died

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


When Shame feels Mothering: The Tragedy of Parentified Daughters

Excellent article. All women should read this!


All I want for Xmas is my parents together again

Dad has been in hospital since the 1st of October.

Medically, he was ready for discharge several weeks ago, when we were advised that he would never be able to return to independent living at home again. After passing through the sorrow of that news, our spirits rallied when Dad’s own state of mind improved at the thought that, nevertheless, soon, he would be reunited with his beloved wife at the care home where she has been living for the past year and which, having visited daily, he has come to regard as a second home. 

His imminent transfer there was what the medics at the hospital and all the teams; physio, OT etc., had recommended, and led us to expect would now happen. So, while Dad’s re-location was getting ever-closer to the wire, what with holiday shut-down looming, we were heartened but the fact that our family’s Xmas present this year would be Mum and Dad reunited before the 25th.

That was until Thursday afternoon.

When, sadly, I learned that despite determined protestations to the contrary from the social services concerned, it would seem that important, end-phase-of-life transitions like Dad’s, are often ultimately decided not so much by the human and family needs which should be paramount here, but by the powers of protocol, legislation and ultimately, available funding.

So this weekend’s upsetting news is that Milton Keynes Placement Panel are not enabling Dad’s reunion with Mum at Ashby House any time soon, if at all. Which consequently means we are likely to be facing a Christmas, divided between hospital and care home, with almost three months on, still no certainty for Dad – for whom ‘hope’ is all important – and with the additional grim prospect of an unwanted, yet probable battle, against social services ahead of us.

There have already been plenty of tears before Xmas this year…….but I’m still hoping for a miracle. X.

Dad has been in hospital since the 1st of October.  Medically, he was ready for discharge several weeks ago, when we were advised that he would never be able to return to independent living at home again.  After passing through the sorrow of that news, our spirits rallied when Dad’s own state of mind improved at the thought that, nevertheless, soon, he would be reunited with his beloved wife at the care home where she has been living for the past year and which, having visited daily, he has come to regard as a second home.  

His imminent transfer there was what the medics at the hospital and all the teams; physio, OT etc., had recommended, and led us to expect would now happen.  So, while Dad’s re-location was getting ever-closer to the wire, what with holiday shut-down looming, we were heartened but the fact that our family’s Xmas present this year would be Mum and Dad reunited before the 25th.  

That was until Thursday afternoon.  

When, sadly, I learned  that despite determined protestations to the contrary from the social services concerned, it would seem that important, end-phase-of-life transitions like Dad’s, are often ultimately decided not so much by the human and family needs which should be paramount here, but by the powers of protocol, legislation and ultimately, available funding.  

So this weekend’s upsetting news is that Milton Keynes Placement Panel are not enabling Dad’s reunion with Mum at Ashby House any time soon, if at all.  Which consequently means we are likely to be facing a Christmas, divided between hospital and care home, with almost three months on, still no certainty for Dad - for whom ‘hope’ is all important - and with the additional grim prospect of an unwanted, yet probable battle, against social services ahead of us.  

There have already been plenty of tears before Xmas this year…….but I’m still hoping for a miracle. X.

Pharrell Williams, and my most wonderful new editor

Recently I was at a crossroads with my first novel. I’d done numerous re-writes, had attracted the interest of several big agents, three of whom had asked to see the whole book but still no cigar – or uptake.  And no-one was saying quite why.

See, I like other writers I’m sure, don’t mind at all the hard work of re-drafting, especially when I know what it is that I’m going for and what I need to change. What really hurts, is knowing that I need this further re-draft while being unsure as to what direction it should take.  This mapless part of the editorial journey has truly been the most frustrating one for me so far and agents really could be a bit more generous, especially to debut novelists, by giving out at least one measly sentence as to why they are rejecting your work. Morsels of invaluable feedback such as these can make all the difference.  It’s quite possible that what is making you fall at the last hurdle may only be a minor thing and because you’re so close to the material you simply can’t see it.

Anyway, I said I was at this crossroads didn’t I? A bit unsure as to how to proceed…and a few writer-chums I turned to, frustrated at my frustration advised me to cut my losses, ditch the first book and start writing the second.  They spoke about the need to ‘know when to let go’ and feared that I might be suffering from a kind of writerly ‘tunnel vision.’  And of course, they were, at one level right to urge me thus, as agents do look even more favourably upon you if you have, one in the bag and one on bubbling the cooker so to speak…and yet…and yet…. a little voice inside me countermanded my friends’ advice and insisted, ‘hang on in there. Don’t give up on this one yet.  You are not quite done here.’

Until, on a particularly sunny day this unusually sunny summer, still pondering my dilemma, I was – corny as it may seem, listening to Pharell Williams’ song ‘Happy’ on Radio Two – when suddenly I was struck by a bolt of revelation/confidence/adrenaline imbalance/all of the above, and decided that, no, I wasn’t going to dump this book in favour of a new beginning just yet.  I was going to dig deeper still and throw EVERYTHING I had left, materially and otherwise, at my first novel.  Because I believe in it that much.

There and then, legs shaking at my imminent financial imprudence, I committed a large chunk of my insubstantial savings to a talent-scouting three-day event in York in September, at which I intend to bag an agent or three, and in advance of that, booked a pricey book report from the Writers’ Workshop to prep the book accordingly.  I also shelled out for a day at the Faber Academy this month as a prelude to emptying the rest of my savings account in order to do a more substantial course there this autumn.

A flurry of impetuous phone-calls/internet purchases later, I felt simultaneously scared at my folly and thrilled by its audacity, and, HAPPY.

And so far, this renewed commitment seems to be paying off. My report came through a few days ago and it was SO encouraging and therefore worth every penny. Yes, I still have work to do but the way ahead is now crystal clear which makes the task itself very do-able. More to the point, the editor, marvellous Celine Kelly who works at Penguin as an editor across my genre; commercial, women’s literary fiction – much in demand at the moment (woop-woop), said she LOVES my book and is confident that with this final push it WILL (yes, she said WILL) sell.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, just when you feel you’ve done all you can and think it might be time to bail, think again.  Switch on Radio Two, dig deeper and make sure you have truly given absolutely all that you possibly can. Because, you know what?  It might just pay off.  And….Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do….


To have and to have not

…I know I/we shouldn’t be so attached to material possessions but I can’t tell you what an awful, totally sleepless night I’ve had since leaving my stuffed-with-precious-things, poppy red holdall on last night’s chunder express bound for Bedford.

Desperate, moribund and inconclusive nocturnal efforts to trace-it/replace-it and utter frustration at not being able to call Bedford Station direct myself, led me at 6.45 this morning, to send devoted-&-slightly-to-blame(!) bf Paul, back to St. Pancras Internazionale prontissimo, to see if there, they might contact the train’s terminus & check if the bag had been found overnight.

I am utterly overjoyed to tell you that soon after, I got a call from said bf, to say that the bag was indeed in Bedford and that after kissing the station supervisor who gave him the good news, he was already en route on his First-Capital-Connect-mission of contrite retrieval.

…As I set down this happy conclusion, I notice that approximately two mega-tonnes of stress are finally beginning to uncoil their sickening grip from my fraughtest of guts.  Although I think it will take several brandy-tanked, earl grey, celebratory cuppas to release the remaining 50 tonnes, still making an Isambard Kingdom Brunel fist of it in there.

Hard-earned thought for the day:

“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena

Happy Days.


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