Having a year off work! Coming back to study with a career underneath me is brilliant. Not only am I well organised and well resourced, I’m annoyingly keen. You know the type – I’ve always done the work ahead of class (and then some), am engaged in the topic under discussion and often share views without embarrassment. Part of this lack of self-consciousness just comes with age but after a few naive weeks in my new class I realised that there was something else going on too. Married, with three young children and a job, I’m not looking for a mate (nor do I have any ego left). Most of the rest of the class are still fluttering their beautiful peacock feathers at each other. In our gender fluid cohort this was endearing and exciting to watch. What a relief not to be a part of it though.
Then there’s motivation. To take a year out of work (gulp, one salary down in our growing household) having saved up enough to cover the cost of the MA plus travel plus no income – you do the sums – there is a lot riding on each class. I have a real sense of the value of the course. My work has expanded week on week as we’ve been sped through historical and contemporary poets and developed our own styles at such a pace that I will be catching up with myself for years. Speaking of which, I’d also like to cheer for my husband whose support has been essential to me being able to study and write. It’s been a real joint effort #younext
Finally there is the enrichment of being creative with other people who are as geeky as you. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed sharing the making of poetry with other poets. I’ll miss this brilliantly diverse group of writers and thinkers. They have been my baby-steps family as we’ve all tumbled our way towards that thing called ‘voice’. I’ve learnt an immeasurable amount from them collectively and individually. Nowhere was that more touchingly felt than in performing a collaborative poem to a hot and appreciative audience at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Standing on stage, gifting our poems to each other, held up all the precious vulnerability we have shared.
Perhaps the most brilliant thing about being a mature student is the intellectual freedom to focus on just one thing intensively. I’m so used to juggling multiple responsibilities. I would recommend the taste of that intense simplicity to anyone considering taking the risk of going back to college.
is those splintered days when you start off watching
Hollie McNish on outdoor teaching and end up
on Shakira tributes on YouTube is those shattered days
when you start with a Mediterranean salad and end up
at the bottom of the Nutella jar is those broken days
shivering in the rain at the school gate as if the grief isn’t
scribbled all over your body in permanent marker. Why
do other parents talk to you about the weather, their kids’
shoes, Brexit — anything but her mouthing absence?
It’s just, September’s the days we go back. This year it’s busy
invisibly sadly busy. Sad busy September full of this-time-last-years
last smiles kisses hugs gasps blink breath —
is to step into shoes I haven’t worn in a lifetime
to walk boldly in those soft shoes, up to the front of the class
and read my poem. Read it with my voice, wide open
eyes like the clear water of sticklebacks trickling over
my toes. Refreshing, drink-it-straight-from-the-river water
drink-it-to-fill-me-up water at the end of a year of crying
Rainday! Rainday! all the rivers are filled and the slippery trout
have spawned. I am all fat up with promise.