Crone poetry

It’s not easy fighting the archetype of ageing, Regardless of how you feel inside, the external world views white hair and facial lines as indicative of endings rather than beginnings.

An unplanned early retirement scared me. Work was my structure. Without it, I didn’t know how to live.  Three things changed these feelings.

  • redesigning my allotment reminded me I love growing fruit, veg and flowers,
  • keeping honeybees, which continues to be the most amazing journey,
  • lack of time was no longer a viable excuse for not writing.

Signing up for one of Wendy Pratt‘s ‘prompt a day‘ poetry courses, I began to write again. It wsn’t always easy and times have changed. Wendy says it better than me in her recent post How to Give Yourself Permission to Write.

On reading this, I felt the resonance!

Older women have to face… …the psychological blocks, and the societal blocks that prevent people, particularly older women, from writing.

Wendy continues… There is a prejudice in society that says that older women are, at best dull, at worst invisible.

All this I know!

I wanted my sixth decade to have new adventures and planned to walk The Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James, a pilgrimage route covering 500 miles from the French Pyrenees to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

One of the highlights would have been seeing the incense-filled botafumeiro swing the length of the cathedral during a Friday night mass for pilgrims. I don’t follow any monotheistic religious system, but am interested in belief and ritual; the botafumeiro in Santiago de Compostela had been on my experience list for some time.

Then Covid happened.

Flights, accommodation etc. all cancelled. I still haven’t used my backpack, but the walking boots are great for the allotment.

During my sixties, I felt increasingly invisible in public. The phrase  ‘older woman’ appeared to mean less rather than more. Not unemployed, I  also seemed to be unemployable. Poetry gave me a new voice, one where age didn’t matter – or did it?

Archetypes are powerful drivers of human reactions. I fight the cultural stereotype of aging but it’s like two different realities. I don’t feel my age so when I look in a mirror, it can be a shock to realise there’s less years ahead than behind.  Older women seem invisible to all except their own age group. Do we really have less value?

I’m a late starter to poetry publication. Socially shy, and familiar with Imposter Syndrome,  face-to-face interactions can be a struggle, but poetry allows me to speak as anyone, anywhere, and I love that freedom.

After Thetis was published last year, I felt blocked for months. It was like staring into black or feeling the truth of Wendy’s expectation list in How to Give Yourself Permission to Write,

The biggest block to writing is expectation… the expectation that, as an older writer, women in particular, you have nothing to say. The expectation that you are too late in your years to even think about writing. The expectation that you’d be no good at it anyway.

After Jack Caradoc (Dreich) published Heaving with the Dreams of Strangers early in 2022, I didn’t know how to begin a second collection.

I love Greek myth; e.g. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Euripides’ dramatic tragedies (the Trojan women)  and fragments from Sappho.  I wanted to follow Thetis with a prose narrative about Odysseus and Kalypso but follow-ups are hard.

In April, I began Gods and Monsters, an online prompt-a-day poetry course with Angela Carr. Drawn to its theme of Greek myth, something clicked, and I could feel the words coming back.

During May, I’m taking Wendy Pratt’s Religion of Water group, and hoping the poetry continues to grow and develop.

When I’m feeling blocked, the writing itself must be continued. I’ve learned not to stop. Don’t wait for inspiration to come back. Make the physical act of writing, part of your daily routine.

It can be hard to not be producing something you feel is worthwhile and possibly publishable. Instead, you have to settle for writing as an exercise, like going to the gym when you don’t want to, or making yourself tackle something from the To Do list which you’ve been putting off.

I returned to morning pages. This activity can be found in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It consists of writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts, or free-writing, first thing in the morning. In the short-term, writing anything that comes into your head might feel silly or a waste of time, but it keeps the creativity doors open and can pay off in the long run.

Following Wendy’s post, there were some interesting tweets for poetry competitions aimed at women of a certain age.

  • King Lear Prizes National Creative Arts Competition for Over-60s, deadline 14th July.
  • The Alchemy Spoon pamphlet competition for ‘new phase’ poets, coming late to poetry, often following retirement, or significant life change. Submissions (theme of friends) closes May 31st.
  • The Grey Hen Press publishes poetry by ‘older women’ and are looking for poems on any subject, max 40 lines, from women age 60 or over.

We all like positive role models, but it can be hard to find appropriate ones. Knowing some publishers recognise the potential value of experience is a comfort.

Ageing is inevitable like death, taxes and single-person supplements, but our years of experience offer a unique position from which to write.

We are Crone Poets!

Time might not be on our side but our perspective of lifelong learning and hard-earned wisdom ensures what we say might be worth listening to.

All images from except the bees, which is mine, and the Crone image from the Dreams of Gaia tarot pack by Ravynne Phelan.



writer’s block and winter blues

image showing the black outline of a leafless tree emerging from grey fog

Something hits my down-button every winter. Usually it passes as spring returns, but this time feels worse because I’ve lost my words as well.

Forget Eliot’s lilacs in April. For me, February and March are the cruellest months.

So what to do?

I’ve been up and down for years, but this is the first time a connection between low mood and writer’s block has been so evident. I lack energy, and my poems are in hiding, but I’ve managed to keep up the habit of journaling.

The routine comes from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Each chapter of the book focuses on elements of creative identity. Every day you write a few pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts. Don’t think, just write what comes into your head. The process is more important than the content.

It’s not a new idea. In 1934, Dorothea Brande wrote a book called Becoming a Writer. Old-fashioned in style, the advice is sound and worth looking out for.

….rise half an hour, or a full hour, earlier than you customarily rise. Just as soon as you can – and without talking, without reading the morning’s paper, without picking up the book you laid aside the night before – begin to write.

Dorothea calls the practice training to be a writer. Like Julia, the idea is to focus on the act of writing rather than the art. It’s easy to spend too much time chasing the perfect phrase or poem, but writing also needs to be habitual.  Giving yourself permission to write freestyle on a regular basis can be unexpectedly liberating.

I’ve been feeling pressure to produce in 2023.

It’s self-imposed but 2022 was such a good year, I want to keep the momentum going.

In March I won the Dreich ‘Slims’ competition with Heaving with the dreams of strangers, one of four out of 240+ submissions to be selected by Jack Caradoc and his team.

In November Thetis was published by Felix Hodcroft at Esplanade Press. A blend of storytelling, script and poetry, this poetic narrative retells the Trojan Wars through the eyes of Thetis, mother to Achilles. I’ve been working on it for several years so it’s strange to have no further projects in preparation and even worse, to feel my poet-voice has gone AWOL.

Maybe post-publication blues is normal, especially when combined with winter and a scarcity of new ideas.

Over the years, I’ve learned the risk of giving into the dark is the further you fall, the harder it is to surface again.

image showing the ainting by the Antwerp School titled Orpheus searching for Eurydice with Persephone and Hades in the background
Orpheus Searching Eurydice in the Underworld, a painting by the Antwerp school, 1675–1699

One of the ways I’ve learned to deal with this is to take structured opportunities to be creative.

In February, I took part in Into the Underworld, a poetry course facilitated by Wendy Pratt. I managed 7 out of 8 drafts and although I’m not sure if any will become poems, it’s 7 more ideas which wouldn’t have appeared otherwise.

In April I’m taking a prompt-a-day course called Gods and Monsters with Angela Carr.  This is based on Greek myth which I love, so it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

image shows a selection of faces and plaques from greek mythology
selection of faces and characters from Greek mythology

Do other people feel like this?

Winter blues?

Writer’s block?

Problems with self-promotion?

Imposter Syndrome?

It doesn’t take much for my Imposter Syndrome to rear up and the voice start to natter in my head again.

I was lucky.

Last year was a fluke.

If I don’t produce anything publishable this year, it will confirm last year was a fluke.

I enjoyed the online poetry events I did last year but promoting in real-time, face-to-face, terrifies me. I learned to cope for work, but the last time I presented was over 3 years ago and poetry is so much more personal.

Imposter Syndrome is tough. For most people, it has childhood roots.  Comments such as ‘you’ll never be good enough‘ and ‘no one will ever listen to you‘ make me doubt my own abilities. Despite learning coping methods over the years, self-promotion remains a challenge.

Here’s a TED Talk about Imposter Syndrome.

In this talk, presenter Lou Solomon says 70% of people are familiar with what she calls the fantastic four; anxiety, perfectionism, self-doubt, and fear of failure but suggests the figure 70% is way too low.

During the short winter days, when it’s too cold for the allotment and my bees, there’s still books to read and these are some of my go-to titles…

…and some additional resources on writer’s block:

To finish with, if you’re new to the concept of free writing, here’s another advocacy statement.

Freewrite is good advice for any writer. Write without pausing to worry about sentence structure, grammar, spelling, or whether what you’re saying makes sense or not. Just write without second-guessing anything. While most of it will be unusable, it’s a good way to push through the block. Masterclass 

Over the years, freewriting has become such a regular practice it feels strange not to do it. The morning journal is a bridge between bad days and good ones. Most of all, it’s a valuable way to re-ground myself in the concept of being a writer. The poems might be taking a break but there are always words (and images!) offering reassurance and comfort.

image shows a winters' day, snow on the ground, black outline of trees, and a setting golden sun reflecting in the river