Really listening: a poetry network

Sometimes the beginning of a change is so small no one notices it. I wonder, in fact, if this is always how it begins. How would we know otherwise? 

Shifting from feeling intimidated by poetry to asking for help with exploring it is something I started on years ago. So many people light up when you ask them about what poems they like. Try it for yourself, listen with genuine interest and see what happens. 

Wonderful, fascinating people have done me the honour of reading aloud a poem they chose and talking to me about why they like it. I’ve captured recordings and published them here so you can listen to our voices speaking words we enjoy. 

Over the years I’ve changed from being fearful about opening up and sharing the things that move me, to being curious and joyful about being vulnerable. I find this encourages those around me to open up too.

Within every recording is a moment of human connection with someone else. From lived experiences in military service training to the scariness of being the person who decides where you go in your life. Every single one started with an offer to truly listen while the other shares a poem they like.

I’d love you to join in. We invite you to listen to poems we’ve recorded and / or contact me if you’re up for recording a poem of your choice to go on the site.

Above all, please enjoy!



White noise

With thanks to a friend for the inspiration for this post – someone asked me what I thought of an album recently.

We were both found a lot that resonated in our lives in The National’s Trouble Will Find Me when it came out. The new album Sleep Well Beast was therefore an interesting one to share some thoughts on.

What I discovered about my experience links to my discoveries about emotional repression and expression, so I’d like to share it here. I’ve not shared anything of what the other said as they’re not my words.

Guilty Party

It’s complex: layers of sound and each one is distinct from the others, but they have a kind of chaotic-ness in common. It made me think of white noise – my attention was darting everywhere in the space of my awareness in response to the sounds.

My musings moved on to imagining of a kind of intellectual white noise. Listening was like distracting my conscious / rational watch-guard and letting an emotional response unfold without judging it too closely. Which is a thing I’ve often used music to do: allow my intuitive / emotional self some space without judging myself too harshly for it. I wonder if that is just me, or if that resonates with anyone else?

This evening I’m listening to Kraftwerk’s Europe Endless, which I discovered about 9 years ago now. It was one of the first times I enjoyed something that wasn’t relentlessly upbeat, though it has that layered, consciousness-occupying quality to it I was talking about above.

I wonder if I’ll ever enjoy really, really simple music?


Past hurts

Therapy is hard. Reconnecting with past hurts is painful. Some days I find it overwhelming: 3 years (and counting) of picking through the debris of past hurts. In overview, I find it consoling or I’d not still be doing it, but in individual moments it sometimes bloody hurts. Sometimes the hurt feels bigger and stronger than me.

I choose acknowledging how I feel as often as I can bear it. The alternative is ignoring it and so ignoring part of what it is to be alive. Ignoring a chance to be vulnerable with others and share something of what it is to be me. But some days it is harder than others, so I try not to be unkind when my feelings about things seem bigger than I am and I want to cry.


the glass on the table

The liquid in the glass laps gently against its sides as I move. I mustn’t spill it, it must remain intact. It’s my job to look after it. I’ve only just realised I’m cradling it to me. I’m so used to holding it I don’t even see it any more. That’s why I’m always so careful. Funny that I stopped realising why.

As the session goes on I describe this mental image. It arrived unannounced and as clear as day. I routinely dismiss my internal imagery: it never occurred to me it was any more than a frivolity.

your hand in mine

Tears growing around my eyes, I reach my hand out to seek comfort in contact. Funerals are difficult. Unexpectedly, she takes my hand and I feel warm fingers in mine.

To physically know that someone is present, alive and breathing, is a gift. Gratitude swells within me spilling my tears over the brink of my eyelids. I bring my left hand to rest on the back of my sister’s hand so it is between mine.

Skin catches against my palm: her skin is drier than mine. I want to soothe, make the skin supple and soft for her. Anxiety prickles in my gut: evidence of fragility is difficult to bear. “She probably does too much washing up,” I think.

Guilt washes over me for this interfering over-protective thought and I remain still. Focus on breathing, focus on touch.

Rinsed by emotion after emotion after emotion I am left the impression of a dry hand clasped between mine, the texture a pattern I can see. The warmth and pressure of our folded fingers an indent upon me.

the middle of the forest

In an instant, like the flick of a switch, I am in the gloom surrounded only by thick trunks and still, damp air. No path, neither more nor less traveled, and I am rooted. Black tree filled terror inhabits me and I’m surprised to blink and see the pale walls of the therapy room.

It was real. The forest in my head sprang up in an instant and it was as real as the prose in your mind right now. It gripped me with fear, fear of being lost. Irretrievably. Forever.

That was one of the strongest and earliest experiences of consciously tuning into my internal landscape. It was terrifying and held a deep foreboding. It was also a way to navigate my internal processes: these are the things that stop me dead in my tracks in my normal train of thought.

I’ve become so good at switching out of the fear and anxiety that I didn’t even realise it’s a substantial part of my experience and it stops me in my tracks regularly. Without realising it I switch tack and find something else to focus on. It limits me: limits my creativity, limits my ability to connect with my own feelings and stops me from exploring the extent of what it means to be human, to be me.

If anyone ever thought therapy was easy I can now report, categorically, it is the polar opposite.

A touch of honesty

Hello 🙂

I’ve not written for a while, but I’ve been planning a new twist to the blog. I have settled on another, very specific purpose for it, that I’ll pursue for as long as seems apt.

Most people that know me know me for being open and honest about my life and the things I find difficult. Yet I’ve been on a journey through counselling over the last 18 months and what I’m learning is just how much I edit myself. Just how much I contain and hide (especially from myself) in order to fit in and save face.

Right now I am facing, more painfully than I ever have done, just how much anxiety I suffer. Just how much I can hate the way I feel. Just how much I sometimes wish, wish, wish I were somebody else. I’ve been hiding it for years from everyone I love and, especially, from myself. The only sure way to stop me from sharing it.

It is okay. I am learning and, once again, it feels like a steep learning curve. It is terrifying to be confronted with the strength of feeling I have. I am learning that I get angry about simple things not going as I need them to. I am scared witless about the things I want from others and life being plain to all. After suppressing it for years, the reality of me feels chaotic and overwhelming. I am just learning to stop clinging to plans and spreadsheets (anyone remember the holiday in Cornwall I planned on a spreadsheet and tweeted about?) in order to save myself from my feelings. I have barely allowed myself to feel angry about interactions with another person since I was first married. That was about 15 years ago now.

Having feelings about stuff is currently terrifying. I am desperately afraid that no one I care about will accept me if I share how I feel. How I really feel about things. I can only bear to test it slowly and only with a very few people. However, I know that studying an MA (the origination of this blog back in 2008) was utterly terrifying. And I completed that fucker, with flair and panache 😉

I’m bricking it, but I’m determined to explore who I really am and do it in my own, inimitable style. I want to use this blog to share some of my findings from my counselling and self exploration journey, hence from now on this blog will be titled …

The Glass on the Table.