A late night Winchester Throwback

Originally posted on April 5th:

Before I came to uni, poetry was one of those things I enjoyed reading and listening to, but never did myself. Even though I read the works – and listened to the words – of all these wonderful poets I found online and in the library, writing poetry still seemed like something angsty teenagers did alone in their rooms. Then I got to Winchester, and I attended my first ever Poetry Platform. The Poetry Platform is a great open mic night, where poets from all over Hampshire can come together for a monthly night of wordery (this is a word now). I loved it from the beginning. The vibe of “everything’s okay here”, the little stage that welcomed everyone, how there was always room for one more person.
The entirety of first year was spent watching everyone else perform, while I was trying to build up a portfolio of half-decent poems in the creative writing course’s mandatory poetry lessons. I started loving those lessons too. Seeing poetry so alive,  and workshopping other students’ lines, sentences I could only dream of writing one day, made me fall in love with poetry as a medium. It’s a love affair I hope will last a lifetime.

I don’t call myself a poet. There are way more talented people, those who can express everything they feel so elegantly, who’ve just got words flowing out of their brains in poetic sentences every minute of every day. However, I do love putting together simple, uncomplicated poems, poems that ponder on how we all more or less fumble through life. They’re rarely very deep, they don’t often tackle very heavy subjects, but after a performance the other day, someone told me they thought my writing felt like “a hug in poem form”, something they felt they could relate to, and I loved that. That’s exactly what I want my “art” to be. Something to make people feel nice and warm and good.

Here’s a video of a poem I did on this month’s(April’s) Poetry Platform. I’m still working on the title, but it felt like a fitting poem to do on my (most likely) last performance at the Railway.

(The song is “Har du Fyr” – Hekla Stålstrenga, a beautiful song about your home always being there waiting for you, no matter how far off you venture.)

Edit, September 16th:
It’s all a bit soppy, but as my three-year England adventure came to an end, I felt like I was allowed to be. I’m still quite proud of Winchester, what I challenged myself to do there and what I managed to figure out on my own, and even though this poem is far from all that eloquent, I like it as a snapshot of what I felt like as that chapter of my life was closing.

Well well, my new BA is thankfully just as exciting as the Creative Writing one was, so here’s to another interesting three years!

-Andrea

Swimming at the deep end of an adverbial phrase and the challenges of learning something new

When was the last time you learned something new? Jumped in at the deep end, went in completely blind, arms open, eyes wide, to learn something you had no earlier knowledge or skills in?

I’m doing a new ba now, and I’m struggling. Not to the point of wanting to stop or give up, just to the point where I have to work harder than I have in years. It feels like I’m back in school, learning definitions by heart and practicing phrases and rules again.

This got me thinking about how I haven’t actually learned something completely new in a very long time. My last BA was definitely challenging, and I certainly got to develop new sides of myself and my “craft”. However, those sides were to some extent already there; they just needed honing, practice, to be cared for, seen and worked on. Now I’m studying grammar and politics and intercultural communication. Every day I’m learning new phrases, new words, new concepts and ideas that I’ve never heard of before. That is exciting! It’s difficult and frustrating but also so so interesting.

As kids we learned something new everyday. Even better, when we were kids, we were great at learning. We hadn’t yet gotten into the arms race that are having better marks than everyone else, we had no concept of always needing to be the best, there was so much less fear of failure. A scraped knee from learning to ride a bike, only hurt until mum put a plaster on it and kissed it better. A glossary test gone wrong only meant going back over the words and nailing it next time. But as we grow older a lot of us lose the ability to look at learning as a process, we want to be the best at everything the first time we ever try. There is this notion of being a natural, we want to be great without needing practice, because practice is difficult and more so, practice makes you look bad, like you don’t know. This is of course not right at all. Practice doesn’t make you look stupid, it makes you look determined. And no one can know anything, unless they’re taught. If we were only ever supposed to do what we learnt as kids, so we never had to practice and “look stupid” as adults, we’d have a very small array of skills and experiences to pick from in our lives, and that, in turn, wouldn’t make us very well-rounded and happy people, would it.

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Yesterday I spent five hours at my dining table, pencil in hand and notebook in front of me, trying to make sense of in-depth sentence structure again. Subjects, adverbial phrases, demonstrative determiners, I know I’ve got it somewhere in my brain. I know a teacher from maybe eight or so years ago managed to lock it somewhere safe in my head, but it takes so much coaxing to get it out, to get those words back down on paper. Some of what I read was also completely new to me, linguistics on university level isn’t something I’ve got a lot of experience with. It took time, a lot of reciting out loud to myself, and a lot of tea.

But the feeling when I got it right! When I could highlight my answers, recite the rule and reason, and tell myself that I properly understood it; that was such a good feeling.

It’s a feeling I haven’t felt in years before this BA, but that I’ve been experiencing a lot these past couple of weeks. The feeling of being able to swim when you jump in the deep end, of keeping your balance when you go in blind, of seeing all the wonderful things the world throws at your open arms if you only widen them a little bit.
(Yes, I know I’m only talking about grammar right now, but the feeling still applies, haha)

I hope you learn something cool today!

-Andrea

WWW Wednesday September 5th

And it’s a Wednesday!
Throughout June and July I did a WWW Wednesday post every week, but I haven’t done one for about a month, now. However, as I’m finally getting properly settled into this new little house of mine, I’ve also finally gotten into the headspace for reading again, and figured I’d get back into posting WWWs again too!

As you can see from the background of these photos, all my reading (that’s not uni course related) is happening in one place. I’ve made myself a cosy, little reading nook. It’s a small-esque chair, nestled under the stairs. It’s got a lamp and a bookshelf right next to it, and my favourite Harry Potter-blanket, the only thing I brought with me from my flat in Winchester to this new uni home. I figured I’d put in a picture of my cosy nook at the end, but before that; let’s look at some books!

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words, and anyone can join. All you have to do is answer three simple questions (“The three Ws”):
-What are you currently reading?
-What did you just finish reading?
-What are you planning on reading next?

I am currently reading:
Flight by Vanessa Harbour

I’ve been so excited for this book for so long! It’s written by Vanessa Harbour, a writer of wonderful children’s fiction and a “master storyteller”, as the praise on the back of the book says. All three years of my Creative writing BA, I was lucky enough to have her as my lecturer and in my third year, she helped me immensely (and was awfully patient with me and my rising stress levels) as my dissertation tutor. Vanessa always stressed how writers have to ask questions, and she sometimes used her own process of working on this book to set examples for us students. This helped us a lot, both as what she talked about and taught us was very helpful, but also because it felt like she was taking us seriously, as students, as writers and as people. Flight popped down in my mailbox today, and I absolutely cannot wait to read it.

Blurb:
If Jakob sneezed, he could die.
Austria 1945. After losing his family, Jakob shelters with Herr Engel in a rural stables, where they hide the precious Lipizzaner stallions they know Hitler wants to steal. When a German officer comes looking for Jakob and finds the horses, Jakob and his guardian know they just get the stallions to safety, but the only way is straight through Nazi territory.
Joined by Kizzy, an orphan Roma girl, the three must guide the horses across the perilous Austrian mountains. Will they reach safety? What will be waiting for them on the other side?

What did you just finish reading?
Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton

I know I was gushing about this book in my last WWW post, and I really wanted to like it. I loved the concept of women having developed magic to deal with systematic oppression, and how that magic again was mistaken for a dangerous force that needed to be quenched, when in fact it is even more powerful when used for good. I also really enjoyed the world building, the maps and the different cities, all the talk of languages and the nuances in the different languages. However, I feel like this book could have benefited from a bit more editing. Some of the sentences were awkwardly worded and a lot of the world building came through in huge info dumps and unnatural pieces of conversation. The back describes it as a feminist fairytale, and though the inclusivity is wonderful (yay LGBT characters, strong female characters, disabled characters and people of colour in heroic roles), it also sometimes felt awfully forced. This is still a good book, though, and like I said, I loved the concept enough to want to read it again at some point.

Blurb:
Mia took the knife and held it high, silver moonlight glinting off the blade. She stared at herself in the reflection. A demon in oyster silk stared back. And yet, in spite of everything – even as she stood amidst the charred cinders of her life – she felt freer than she had in ages. Powerful.
Run, little rose. Run fast and free. 

What are you planning on reading next?
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White

I don’t have any clever reasoning for wanting to read this book; I used to love the Disney adaption of it when I was a child, and I saw this in Waterstones, months ago, and just fell in love with the colours on the cover. Now I’m excited to see what the original story is actually like!

Blurb:
When Merlyn the magician comes to tutor Sir Ector’s sons, Kay and the Wart, schoolwork suddenly becomes much more fun. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy being turned into a fish, a badger, or a snake?
But Wart is destined for great things, and Merlyn’s magical teachings are only the beginning of his amazing future.

Okay, that was fun! Like I said; I’ve settled in now, which means more energy for reading, which means that hopefully, it won’t be a month until the next WWW Wednesday post! If you’ve done a WWW post this week, please leave it in the comments, I’d love to check it out! What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of these books?

As usual, have an absolutely brilliant day,
-Andrea