It’s a bit fraught, isn’t it, writing a biography?
First person, third person? Too self-effacing, too egotistic? Too tongue in cheek, too earnest?
I’ll be one of the scratch poets at the wonderful Tonic spoken word night next week – they offered a bit of advance promo if I could supply a short bio. So I dashed this one off in a few minutes.
It feels OK today. Maybe I’ll hate it tomorrow.
Beccy Golding is a late bloomer, discovering her identity as a poet in her 50s, currently exploring all manner of poetic possibilities to see which hats fit best. A lot of her stuff is about women and ageing, family and loss. Someone recently described her poems as creating a “physical, visceral, slightly weird sense world.”*
* The fabulous Chris Redmond of Tongue Fu spoken word project said this about my poems, as feedback at our end-of-course online showcase a few weeks ago. I scribbled it down, I didn’t ask if I could – I’m assuming he won’t mind.
The state of ‘poet’ currently feels like a perpetual state of noticing – noticing what I see and naming it, noticing what I feel and naming it, noticing thoughts and following them until they dwindle or reach a conclusion or until I notice something else.
The noticing is about ‘being here’, being mindful of the moment I am in and how it feels. I am doing this from time to time, when I can, but it is certainly not a constant state of being – my mind wanders; I realise I have missed crucial plot points or conversations, or that I have been paddling about in an imagined future, or misremembered past. And sometimes I become aware that this is the case.
I enjoy noticing thoughts I’ve been having all week, or for months, sometimes for years – finally noticing them enough to articulate them in words, or into an image or feeling made from words. I find external prompts and exercises in workshops and courses are often a great way into these for me – also an amazing way into fantastic worlds and creative scenarios my brain makes for me like a ribbon unravelling, without any prior notice.
A while ago I was writing reviews of shows and gigs for South Bristol Voice and found this to be very useful practice for noticing – from neighbourhood pantos and community theatre to folk gigs, to full-on theatre performances and Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, to touring musicals and the Welsh National Opera at Bristol Hippodrome (spoiler – opera doesn’t do it for me) – and I got better at it the more I did it, noticing music and how my body reacted, noticing the judgments that were happening under the surface that before I might not have been conscious of, and trying to capture an honesty and clarity about it all.
Mindfulness as a route into clowning and fooling with Holly Stoppit and Franki Anderson has been a crucial part of developing my noticing skills. Using the breath and other mindfulness techniques to get in a headspace, taking the time to register and recognise my thoughts and feelings, and physical sensations, in the moment –- and acting on them – voicing them – moving into them.
It’s a raising to consciousness of all the things that are going on – how does my body feel, react? Noticing me, my, mine – and also observing out – like a painter who captures scenes that may not be considered beautiful – or word sketching of nature and non-nature, reportage of the world around me.
How can I capture these things that have been captured before, through my voice, my senses and mind?
– light on water
– fluffy white clouds
– the beauty of nature
– the love of family and friends
– the down days
I have to start by really noticing how they make me feel and following the threads of thoughts that arise.
Here are some of the daily poems that I’ve written and posted on @FridayIsPoetsDay – some of the ones that come particularly from moments of noticing.
This documentation appeals to me, daily poems mostly informed by my daily life… perhaps this documentation is instead of a diary? I am writing it – it happened. Maybe some day someone will notice or be interested that I did those things.
Beccy Golding, July 2021
My daily poems on Instagram as @FridayIsPoetsDay often capture thoughts or moments from my day, though not always. It feels like documentation through poetry.
Documentation works for me as a way of noticing that I have really done stuff, achieved things – it’s easy for me to not notice or feel like I haven’t done anything positive for weeks on end – seeing lists ticked off and spreadsheets full of entries is like a metaphorical ding, ding ding.
The use of notebooks is instinctive rather than a calculated decision. Something about the size, shape, colour, texture, the line spacing etc tells me what the notebook’s job will be. This is probably why I have a drawer full of unused ones and yet still buy more. Notebooks in shops are so alluring and full of positive potential. I haven’t found exactly the right use for the ones in the drawer yet but they wait there patiently, full of hope.
I am a natural documenter, taking notes & snaps, keeping lists of quotes from family, friends & colleagues, etc. This is the instinctive administrator in me – my Radical Admin. I have tried to drop the impulse to be the archive keeper too – now it’s easier not to keep ticket stubs etc when sales are online, which helps. For nearly two decades I was the keeper of the family photos and paperwork, after my folks died, but more recently I’ve been able to share that role with my brothers, and discard stuff I’ve held onto since my parents’ deaths at the turn of the century.
Ways I am documenting my poetry/DYCP year:
Recording aspects of DYCP grant
recording time spent, with categories such as courses, shows, mentoring etc
budget & money spent
list of donated prompts and when/if they’ve been used
Black, with white pages & additional multi-coloured pages inserted, A3
quick-reference guide and thinking-dump,
lists of short-form poetry rules
tips for ways into writing
list of bubbling thoughts so they don’t get away
brainstorm of Things That Have Given Me Ideas
some poets I have seen live/enjoyed reading
Instructions For Being A Poet & rituals for writing
Black rubberised cover, rainbow-edged pages, A5
recording thoughts and themes
to do lists
diary of the garden retreat
recording mentoring sessions with Anita and related To Do lists
rainbows if stroked one way, silver if stroked the other
reminds me of an amazing sequinned jacket Anita owns
Pink cardboard, A4
print outs of poems I’ve been working on
previous life as a folder for meeting notes when I worked at The Spark – still says that on the front and spine
Black n Red, red elastic, B5
all numbered, about to start #4
each page is numbered with space for date
contents page at front
I really like this size and format – these are my favourite ‘proper’ notebooks for doing ‘proper’ stuff in – I have a stack of 4 new ones, still wrapped, ready and waiting