Doing Again

At the turn of the Millennium, I completed a project under the Mind-Millennium Award Scheme.

My project – the Lifelines Project – involved collecting and publishing poems, pictures and self-help strategies from other people who, like me, had suffered from enduring and debilitating depression.

I had not met many of the contributors, and was amazed – honoured – that they trusted me with their personal expressions, all because of the underlying intention of reaching out in the hope of helping others.

If you, yourself, are suffering with depression, I would like to wish you well and tell you that you are not alone.”

Since then, there’s been increased awareness about mental health and how it can be improved.  While there remains much to be done in society from the ‘prevent’ and ‘promote’ perspectives, being able to – and even encouraged – to talk about mental health difficulties more openly represents a start.

In my own experience, I eventually got fed up of talking – I’ve never been much good at it anyway.  I knew that I needed to take action, to find ways of turning my life around, however difficult or painful that might be.  And I knew it would be difficult and painful, to rebuild from a below zero level when I was in my forties.

From somewhere, somehow, I found the resolve to put my head down, prioritise, and push myself through.  For a long time I concentrated on work and on developing my internal resilience.  Just before I turned 60 I decided to take the plunge and commit to a relationship. I now have a much fuller and richer life than I have ever had before and I’m thankful for that.

Even so, life continues to be difficult and I still take antidepressants – probably always will. But I have other coping skills and strategies, and have also been able to recently retire, taking away work pressures that I could no longer deal with.

I wasn’t able to keep in touch with all the people who contributed to the Lifelines Project but they’ve always remained in my thoughts and I hope that they too have been able to find a way through; a way that works for each of them:

Sylvia

Marcia

Maggie 2

Peter

Virginia

Henzie

Maggie 3

Jonathan

Fiona

Sean

Christopher

Polly

Christine

Caz

John

Caroline

Frances

Susan

Patricia

Mary

Dave

Mark

Tony

Iain

I thought it was fitting to include a poem by one of the Project contributors – Mark:

Recovery

The night has been terror:
depression, cold, confusion.
               – Ears scream.

Grey – the morning in my front-room.

A tear on my cheek and
a child’s grizzle
for a few seconds
               – From my adult form.

A small rebellion
               – The beginning of action.

A tiny sunbeam through the window
               – Doing again.

Unwanted gift? No wear

Photo by Jan Kopu0159iva on Pexels.com

Jacket 1

It’s there, on the chair
The red fleece jacket
With hood and drawstring waist
That I don’t want to wear
Don’t want to keep.

It’s warm and soft when I put it on
But far too big for me
Drowned in a red sea
Shapeless, I feel
A baggy, saggy, faceless entity.

I look at the jacket
On the chair
In limp, loose folds of red, and seams
This isn’t the jacket of my dreams.

It’s theirs to wear
Not mine to keep
Their tears to cry
Not mine to weep.

It’s there, on the chair
The red fleece jacket
With hood and drawstring waist
That I don’t want to wear
Don’t want to keep
So I’ve put a price on its head
To let it go free
To someone who wants it
But who wants me?

Jacket 2

It’s there, on the chair
The red fleece jacket
With hood and drawstring waist
That I don’t want to wear
Don’t want to keep.

It’s warm and soft when I put it on
But far too big for me
Drowned in a red sea
Shapeless, I feel
A baggy, saggy, faceless entity.

I look at the jacket
On the chair
In limp, loose folds of red, and seams
This isn’t the jacket of my dreams.

It’s not my layer
These aren’t my lies
With drawstring waist
And nylon ties.

It’s not my jacket
They’re not my dreams
These aren’t my ties
They’re not my seams.

So I leave the jacket
On the chair
To go my way
While they go theirs.

Jacket 3

Now it hangs upon the door
That red fleece jacket
That I didn’t want to wear
Didn’t want to keep.

It’s warm and soft when I put it on
And not too big for me
Warmed in a red sea
Shapeless no more
No baggy, saggy faceless entity.

I look at the jacket
On the door
In limp, loose folds of red and seams
It’s not the jacket of my dreams
But just a layer to keep me warm
From frozen looks
And glares of scorn.

It is my jacket
With hood and waist
To wear awhile
From place to place.

Jacket 4

What next?

Jacket 5

Jacket
In?

Jacket 6

No!

(c) Maggie ‘Glad the Poet’ Baker, 2003

A Bag of Clay

A bag of clay bought from ‘Hot Clay’ of Warrington

A bag of clay
some simple tools
it’s time to play
by my own rules

The place to start
is here and now
I’ll make some art
then take a bow

The bag of clay
is mine to mould
to use my way
until I’m old

Pinch, coil and fire
it will become
a bag of clay
in different form

Maggie ‘Glad the Poet/Potter’ Baker 2021

Poetry & Pottery: The Perfect Partnership

1978

1978 was not a good year, for me
even though I hold it dear

Try as I might I could not find the key
to unlock my brain
work out its mystery

Lurching this way and that
never finding a hold
I fell so many times
but got ever more bold

Crashing right down
I broke back to the core
then inched my way through
to daylight once more

The clay in my hand
is the life that I’ve led
I have cried, ached and screamed
and wished I was dead

But I never gave up
and I never gave in
I just kept on going
and drank lots of gin

Joking aside –
though I do like a drop –
I feel like I’ve won
I’ve come out on top

For I have love in my life
a treasure most true
I’m here and I’m now
simply human, through and through

© Maggie ‘Glad the Poet’ Baker 2021

1978 was the year I graduated with a degree in Ceramics from Bristol Polytechnic. 

I’d reached out to art in my teens as a way of asserting a direction, without knowing where that direction might take me. It was driven by some deep-rooted instinct; an instinct which for a long time I thought had failed me. But it hadn’t.

As it’s turned out, my life has taken many “twists and turns, and loops and leaps”, most of which have left me struggling to find a foothold. Finally, however, I feel I am on firm ground, and astonished to find myself turning back to working with clay, after a break of over 40 years.

What’s even more astonishing is that I’m not only loving working with the medium, I’ve got ideas coming into my head from goodness knows where. I’m not having to push myself just to produce something, anything, as I did when I was at college (although I was proud of what I did produce in the end; it was no easy feat, considering the complexity of mental health problems I was dealing with).

Art didn’t work as a therapy for me when I was younger; the damage went too deep and I had to find ways to dig it out – just like clay has to be dug out.  What I’ve got now is malleable and mouldable in whatever way I choose. I can be creative in any way or ways that suit me; working with clay or words; working with my life.

I hope my pots can be poetic; and that my poetry will continue to be potty.

Solid and fluid at the same time. This one’s long gone; I’m making others now.

The Playlist

When I was young I didn’t really follow any one
I wasn’t into screaming at the Beatles
Or collecting singles or going to concerts
I’ve always been a bit behind with a lot of things
I can never remember names
Or who played what or where or when
But then that maybe only matters
In pub quizzes or if you want to feel flattered
By other people praising you for what you know
It would be nice though, sometimes, to be the one
Who remembers what they heard when they were young
And relate it to a first kiss, or a walk in the park
But then I never could get up with the lark
Always had a bit of a struggle, doing the usual things
Although I did listen quite a lot to Cat Stevens
Wishing I could be Sad Lisa but ending up just being sad
Still, it hasn’t all been bad
At least I haven’t got cluttered up
With a load of CDs that I don’t know what to do with
And now that I’m 61 I can listen to anyone
Or anything I choose
And my music collection
Is out there waiting for me
Just as it was
All those years ago
When I was young

© Maggie ‘Glad the Poet’ Baker 2017

My Garage

My garage
is very large
and accommodating
with space for everything
except my car

The garage walls
and roof
and door
make sure it is safe
like sacred space

My garage
doesn’t judge
it just accepts
and holds
and waits
until the winter cold
abates

Then when I start
to sweep
and sort
I rediscover
all the junk
that I once bought

Summer sun
brings clearance days
some things I take
to car boot sales
the rest I give
away

Eventually
the garage space
is free once more
large and accommodating
with space for everything
except my car

Ready for the debris of my life
to accumulate
all over
again

2017 & 2021

The Man in the Thin Grey Jumper with Eyes like George Clooney

The thin threads of your grey jumper
Lie loose on the bones of your back

Your life has been hard
Just getting through
So little has come your way
So much that you lack

But now you are here
And a change has begun
You have a wife
A new life
Less pain

When you smile
Your whole face glows
For a while
And best of all
Though you do not know
You have the eyes of George Clooney
Fit for a movie

As the story of your life
Continues to unfold
I hope you will find
The strength to be bold

Be happy
Be true
All good things
In the world
Should now come
To you.

© Maggie ‘Glad the Poet’ Baker 2015 & 2021

Poetry Rule No 2. Establish a good relationship with a stationery supplier

I, The Tree

It is afternoon
soon to be evening
as I wait for her to return
from the business of her day

I always wait for her
and hope she never goes away

I am reaching, always reaching
into the garden she has tended
for many lonely years

I know that she knows I look out for her
and would love to wipe away her tears

But the fingers of my hands are too hard
bent and curled

The best I can do is to soften her sorrow
with the surprise of spring
and after the cold white of winter
the promise of a green and bright tomorrow

Summer comes
a time I love to share
with her
and the garden

She – stooped –
digging and weeding
me with arms outstretched
in full and joyous glory once again
her in her own way
also feeding

Together we grow
each through our seasons

Every year I provide a carpet for her feet
she thanks me from her heart
I feel
and looks out for me
the Tree
hoping I will never go away

I know
with all the branches of my being
I never will

2017 & 2021

Poetry Rule No. 3 Establish (and maintain) good relationships with other suppliers – providing the bases are reciprocal

Red

Red was the colour
of your jacket
on the chair –
with slender, tender fingers
curled around a tumbler –
as you waited for me there
on our first date

Red was the colour of my jacket too
there was something about you –
the mark on your cheek
the way you held your head –
it wasn’t love at first sight
but I was happy for it to be
something else
instead

Since then our jackets
have become
a pair –
your slender, tender fingers
hold me now
in bed –
but I’ll always remember
our first date
when you and I
both wore
red

2017 & 2021

Rule No. 20 Enjoy the process

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs from Pexels

Well-pruned roses

The pathways of my mind
Are not defined
Just like well-pruned roses
They shoot and sprout
In all sorts of places
At paces I know nothing about

The slate chippings in my garden
Are sharp and grey
They lay flat and easy
In the spaces that I make
Not knowing why
Or how long it will take

Praying to the sky
Leaves turn green and fall
Orange, yellow, gold
Flowers unfold
Well-pruned roses
Always turn out best
Until it’s time to weed again
And then it’s time to rest

Places that I know nothing about
Spaces that I make
The garden of my mind is growing
Like a well-pruned rose
That buds and blooms
Before it goes

Eventually the birds will come
To sing their song
In the garden of my well-pruned mind
Where they belong

2015