Poetry

A Decade of Growth…

The annoyingly nameless decade that is rapidly drawing to a close has been a time of desperate struggle for many sick and disabled people living, or trying to, in these bleak times of austerity.

The Conservative – Lib Dem coalition was unleashed on the great British public back in May 2010. They immediately announced that they would be making severe cuts to the benefits system, and public services in order to balance the books. This political choice would target the poor and vulnerable, as they were held responsible for the global financial crash.

I don’t have the time to go through the last decade month by month, but suffice to say that these austere policies set the mood for the entire decade. I remember watching the TV news with a feeling of dread, as I knew what would follow would damage our society in ways that we hadn’t even dreamt of.

I had just escaped from an unhappy marriage, and had moved in to my new bachelor pad where I was to employ a team of personal assistants to help me to live independently. Unfortunately, I was in and out of hospital during 2010, as I suffered a nasty bout of pneumonia as well as having three operations to remove kidney stones.

This wasn’t going to be an easy decade, that much was obvious. I had a decision to make – do I give in and accept my position as a worthless member of society, or do I stand up for myself and fight back against the establishment? – I decided on the latter option…

I was forced in to politics as an activist, by my repressors and they have created a monster that will not rest until social justice is served to each and every one of us. It all began when the coalition government introduced the bedroom tax, and WCBC targeted me as someone who should be paying for having more than one bedroom. I wasn’t standing for that, and decided to make a piece of art in protest, that appeared in the Daily Mirror and had the desired impact. Combining art and activism was something I would continue to do with success throughout the decade.

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One of 20 postcards created for the Postcards from the Edges initiative. 

Fortunately, I seem to have blossomed with my back against the wall. This is particularly evident through the success of the #SaveWILG campaign, through which I have made numerous friends, enjoyed trips to Cardiff and Westminster and built political connections on a cross-party basis. We have held an art exhibition to promote the campaign and even had a awareness day in Wrexham, that saw musicians, poets and comedians show their solidarity. The postcard campaign that we ran, also saw the campaign gather support from acclaimed film director Ken Loach, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and even Jeremy Corbyn.

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Jeremy Corbyn meets Nathan Lee Davies at the Welsh Labour Conference in April 2018. 

There is still some work to be done to finalise everything with regard to independent living for former ILF recipients in Wales, but sincere thanks must go to everyone who has helped make this campaign a success.

The fact that I have also managed to publish two books and receive an Honorary Fellowship from Glyndwr University within this period, is something that I am very proud of. It seems that I can be productive with the right levels of support. It also helps not having to put up with a significant other and her three noisy children. Married life is just not something I am cut out for. Of course, I get lonely at times, but I do not think that a conventional relationship is the answer for me. The need to remain focused is more important at this moment in time.  I wrote a blog about my personal situation earlier this year. You can read it by clicking here. 

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Receiving an Honorary Fellowship from Glyndwr University.

Whilst enjoying the company of three great friends at the pub yesterday, I was comparing my situation with the one I found myself in at the dawn of the previous decade. There is no doubt that the work I have done over the past ten years has put me in a stronger position for the difficult years ahead. Let no one be in any doubt that the Johnson regime will lead to considerable difficulties for many of us, but it is no good just moaning and worrying about it all. The time to act is now, and we all have a part to play in creating a society that works for the many, not the few.

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Good friends are hard to find, but I have been extremely fortunate. 

I have a few exciting projects lined up for 2020 and beyond, such as developing my poetry, working on my third book and creating art exhibitions to try to reach the politically confused.

Whatever I end up doing, it is sure to be a bumpy ride. Buckle up…

Dancing on Thin Ice – Reader Review

I was delighted to receive a review of Dancing on Thin Ice from Julia Kobel, who is someone I haven’t met, but picked up a copy of my book from my mentor Ted Eames. I have included Julia’s kind words below as I thought it might encourage some extra sales from an indecisive few.

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Dancing on Thin Ice review by Julia Kobel.

Content should be the most important consideration when engaging with new work but I admit to finding the look and feel of a book to be influential. In this case the size, cover illustration, presentation and format seemed very right. The stylised image of Nathan draws the eye and gives the reader a visual connection to the writer before any words have been read, other than the title. And the title is well chosen; it’s something we all do to some extent. Having now read this book I see Nathan’s eyes as two light beacons which cut through and pierce the darkest of places, exposing what is there to be seen if we choose to look.

The introduction and the foreword explain how Nathan’s collection came into being. I always find this kind of information interesting. Much hinges on the fact that Nathan was encouraged to try out the tanka form at Ted’s workshop; one of those chance life encounters which prove so significant.

The definition of Ataxia was factually helpful in that I’m not familiar with this disease. But the list poem was more helpful in that it took the list of symptoms and applied them; giving the reader a comprehensive picture of what having this disease means to every aspect of Nathan’s life. This feels to me fearless writing in that Nathan writes honestly, knowingly and unsparingly; he drives in a straight line at personal issues, not taking the option of going around the block. The lines in italics reinforce the description of ‘living with Ataxia’; and lines directly addressing the reader such as, ‘Did I mention it’s a struggle?’ are very involving. To me this is not the voice of someone whose soul is being suffocated by his disease but someone whose voice/soul is flowing free in its desire to be heard.

I liked the arrangement of the tanka poems being wrapped by the two list poems. Choosing the tanka form to document 2017 was such a good decision. Nathan’s sharp insights are suited to the tight structure, comments hit home because they are so word undiluted. Dividing the poems into three titled sections works well. It helps to establish what is of importance to him. A future workshop exercise could be to read and place the poems into the most appropriate set. I appreciate titles and so I particularly enjoyed the ones which turned well known phrases on their head eg ‘How to lose friends and alienate people’. It did cross my mind that Nathan should put himself forward to write political messages/slogans as he has an insightful mind and his own particular way of truth telling.

Set among the tanka are some haiku. This change of form makes them stand out, in a good way. Their even fewer words crystallise the message. It made me think that the haiku is like the nut inside a tanka word shell.

I read this collection in one sitting because it deserves to be read in entirety and the writing demands this of the reader. It was never intended to be an easy read and it isn’t. Nathan’s writing confronts our perception of what it’s really like to be disabled. There are no tea and biscuit scenarios here, more raw steak and whisky (I hope I’m not offending a vegetarian!). I am an able bodied person living in a bubble world, my life is nothing like Nathan’s. But I recognise that what Nathan is saying is important, important for us all. The poetry vehicle he has chosen to share his thoughts and feelings is appropriate and right. My reading of Dancing on Thin Ice has left me feeling that I have …… learned, been challenged, unsettled, shocked, moved and other emotions I can’t even name. And that is as it should be. ‘Lust for Life’ (one of my favourites) says that it’s ‘Time to shake things up’ ……. be proud, you have enabled that in a most moving way. Thank you.

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This review is extremely satisfying for me. It shows that I have managed to reach my audience in the way that I had hoped to. The fact that I seem to have been accepted as a writer of tanka poetry, does tend to make me nervous in a way. I do not think it would be healthy to remain stuck in this style and I should explore other areas of poetry.

This is, of course, quite a nerve wracking thing as it would mean reinventing myself and possibly disappointing readers. I cannot afford to keep repeating myself in the tight tanka structure.

What do people think I should do next in terms of poetry?

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You can make a purchase of Dancing on Thin Ice directly through me, or if you live further afield, simply contact me through social media or the contact page of this blog. Don’t forget to include your name and address. I will have to charge £7.99 for those who cannot pick up their copy of the book to cover my postage costs.

Dancing on Thin Ice  is also available through eBay. 

Hang Your Heads

According to Wikipedia, Tanka (短歌, “short poem”) is a genre of classical Japanese poetry and one of the major genres of Japanese literature.

A Tanka consists of 5 lines and 31 syllables. Each line has a set number of syllables see below:

Line 1 – 5 syllables
Line 2 – 7 syllables
Line 3 – 5 syllables
Line 4 – 7 syllables
Line 5 – 7 syllables

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have put together a collection of poems to reflect the struggles of disabled people in 21st century Britain. These poems were published in a collection titled Dancing on Thin Ice in November 2019.

I recently wrote another Tanka following the General Election, which stirred up a range of emotions for most people. Mine are reflected in the poem below:

Fucking idiots

Swallowed lies, rejected hope

To get Brexit done

Condemning those that suffer

To five more years of struggle

 

Open Letter to Whom it May Concern

The following letter is written from the heart and broaches the difficult arena of disability and sexuality, which is a topic I will be focusing on over the coming months. I am excited to announce that I will be working with Dave Brown who is the Principal at The Centre for ICASA, the UK Sexual Healing Centre.

My issues will become clear to those who read this difficult-to-compose open letter, which is written with honesty and openness. Please be aware that this letter does touch upon adult themes though, as always, respect is at the centre of everything that I write.

Please note that the piece of art used below is Girl with Tear by Roy Lichtenstein. I do not hold copyright for this image and this image is not connected with my work in any way.

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As well as living with Friedreich’s Ataxia, I am also locked in a struggle with two familiar bedfellows of this progressive genetic condition – loneliness and depression. These negative emotions are exasperated by the fact that I cannot fully function in the sexual game of life, despite being in possession of all the necessary equipment and having a healthy sex drive.

There are many reasons why I feel excluded from society. I discussed many of the limitations I feel in my latest book of poetry, Dancing on Thin Ice. I have included many of the poems below between paragraphs trying to explain, with respect at all times, the emotions and frustrations that I face.

I have not been fortunate enough to enjoy much success on the dating scene. The relationships I have had with the opposite sex have poisoned my mind and left me feeling that the ideal union is not attainable.

Fairytale Romance

She’s out there, somewhere

My angelic devotee.

A buxom beauty 

With cascading locks of hair

Residing with pigs that fly

I guess part of the problem is that my idea of the ideal union is far from conventional. I have experienced a conventional relationship in the past, got married, experienced the humdrum reality that people bizarrely seem to strive for. I thankfully found an escape route when my ex proved that her legs were more spreadable than Clover margarine. Suddenly, I was booted out of my stagnant position of a husband and free to build a life of my choosing.

Freedom is not much fun when you live with Friedreich’s Ataxia. There are so many different hurdles put in the way of true equality for those with only the slightest difference from the midstream masses. Ataxians face an arduous assault course full of hazardous pitfalls when aiming towards a level playing field, particularly when it comes to the dating scene.

For Your Entertainment

I am undateable

According to Channel Four

Look at the cute crips

Patronise at your leisure

While society stands still

In the ten years I have been divorced, I am proud of what I have achieved. I am the author of two books, I have been awarded an Honorary Fellowship for my work in Disability Rights by Glyndwr University and have led the successful #SaveWILG campaign to help protect independent living for those with high support needs in Wales. This is in addition to maintaining and designing my quirky bachelor pad and travelling across England and Wales. However, I remain unlucky and frustrated in my relations with the opposite sex.

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of female friends who are very important to me, but I am missing out on that special someone who I can become intimate with. To make this situation even more depressing I have been robbed of all dexterity due to the effects of FA. I shouldn’t have to paint a picture of the limits this means that I face. The options open to most men with regard to sexual release just aren’t there for me.

The most worrying aspect of this is to my general health. The following paragraph was taken from Reuters Health:

” Ejaculation frequency could be a sign of overall health. … (Reuters Health) – – Men who ejaculate often may have a lower risk of prostate cancer than their peers who don’t do it as frequently, a U.S. study suggests.”

So what is the solution? Every time I pluck up the courage to discuss the issue with the doctor I am fobbed off through sheer embarrassment. It is an area that people don’t feel comfortable discussing, but if it saves lives then it must be worth opening up about.

As I can’t do anything with my own, useless pair of hands then the obvious answer is to find someone with hands that would help. This is not an easy thing to do. I have been trying for ten years. I have had one or two successful arrangements that were fun while they lasted, but had no long term stability. Frustratingly, they also cost me a pretty penny. Oh to be desirable without financial incentive…

The problem is trying to achieve a perfect settlement whilst also making sure all parties maintain their dignity and self-respect. I have no desire to merely use a member of the opposite sex for my own sexual gratification. I much prefer to build a true friendship that has an intimate element to it. This sounds acceptable on paper, but in the real world it is extremely difficult to find. It is not as if you can approach someone in the supermarket and ask if they would be interested in a friendship whilst enquiring about the strength of their wrists.

Superficial Puzzle

Unrequited lust

Equals a half-empty bed

Desexualised

Hunting down the missing piece

Undesirable, alone

I can spend so much money on simply meeting a sexual need. Ejaculation is good for our physical and mental well-being, so I find it strange that it is not discussed more openly and seriously. Why do I feel so sleazy writing about something that will help my health? The simple fact is that I do not believe that I should have to fund something that I need to stay healthy.  If I lived in the Netherlands I believe I wouldn’t have to consider using my own money to fulfill a biological function.

The following link takes you to a page that explains all about sex care and how it works in the Netherlands. This should be read by everyone, without embarrassment. It is something that I would like to see established in the United Kingdom, but I know how difficult it will be for our antiquated, Victorian nation to follow the lead of a progressive, liberal country.

In the meantime, I will have to find the money from somewhere to keep myself in order. The only other cheap alternative I have at my disposal is phone sex. Over the years I have spent a small fortune on Premium Rate phone lines. This has only ground to a halt now that I receive 24/7 support and therefore do not feel comfortable indulging in sex chat while there is someone else in the room. I would not dream of putting any of my support workers in such an uncomfortable situation. However, this does not help me and my needs.

Hanging On The Telephone

Compulsive habit

Born out of pure loneliness

Premium phone calls

Cost money and dignity

Victim of the modern world?

I suppose I should be grateful that I am no longer running up huge phone bills after paying 51p per minute or something extortionate like that. It became an unhealthy compulsion that I didn’t even enjoy. After the show was over I would be left bemoaning the situation I found myself in and I would always end up apologising to the woman on the other end of the phone. They would always be puzzled about why I felt the need to apologise. I guess I am just a decent human being and I don’t like the idea of using anybody for my own sexual gratification. Unfortunately, needs must and no one was ever hurt or offended…

I am always aware that time is at a premium as I search for an unconventional partner in crime. The median age of death for people living with Friedreich’s Ataxia is 35. I am rapidly approaching my 43rd birthday. The closest I have come to finding the perfect match at the moment is through my relationship with my friend Robyn who I wrote the following Tanka about:

Wonder Woman

The  ideal union

A new woman in my life 

Plastic fantastic

Her perfectly formed figure

Mannequin in lingerie

Of course, I have a number of close female friends who I value and respect greatly. I am a good guy, therefore I also have the same amount of respect for their husbands and partners. Friendship comes easy to me, it is steering relationships down a more intimate avenue that I have difficulties with.

I think I have covered most of the bases in this article. There are so many stories that I could share about being “ghosted”  or the multiple times I have put myself in danger for the allure of trying to create an intimate situation through sex workers. I often get confused between love and sex, as it took me way too long to realise that neither of these mean anything without the other.

Square Peg, Round Hole

Attempting an impossible fit

Without wishing to look an utter tit

Will that spaz ever manage it?

Square peg, round hole

 

Acceptance is what we strive for

A level playing field, no more

Let me display my regular, everyday, humdrum core

Square peg, round hole

 

Accessibility would be a start

Open the barriers to superficial hearts

And be rewarded with love that won’t tear you apart

Square peg, round hole

 

Conformity with the masses is a must

Difference as sexy as a stale pie crust

Something, something that leads to lust

Square peg, round hole

 

Fed up already of this rhyming lark

Guess I ain’t no John Cooper Clarke

How the hell will I make my mark?

Square peg, round hole

 

Instead of copying another man’s style

I need to go the extra mile

Writing personally with added guile

Square peg, round hole

 

Breaking free from restrictions

While penning accurate descriptions

In free-form style – it’s what I need to do

Square peg, round hole

 

So I guess I’ll never fit

Into your confines, YOU utter tit

I’ll be myself – get used to it

Square peg, round fucking hole

This article is not an advert, but if you are in a position to offer solutions to the situation I find myself in then please feel free to contact me in private via nathanleedavies @ gmail.com

Dancing on Thin Ice – Available Now

I have just received a delivery of 150 copies of my new poetry book. This features Tanka, Haiku and List Poems over 76 pages. It can be bought for just £5.

You can make a purchase directly through me, or if you live further afield, simply contact me through social media or the contact page of this blog. Don’t forget to include your name and address. I will then work out postage costs and advise you of payment methods.

It is a good read, and if you don’t believe me, maybe you should look at the following endorsements that I am honoured to have adorning the back cover of my latest publication:

“Nathan is a force of nature and an inspiration. To create in the face of great struggle is a noble feat. That Nathan refuses to be silenced by his personal circumstances or by a political system that appears to actively penalise those who need the most support is a testament to his strength, both as an individual and writer. It would be easy for Nathan to fold inward, to focus solely on his own experience, but while these poems do offer deeper, heart-wrenching insights into his world of living with Ataxia, they also artfully illustrate our writer’s wider crusade to campaign for justice and fair treatment for all who are dis-abled by their interactions with our ableist world. These are not poems that sit easily with a reader of any conscience. There is nowhere for any fair minded person to hide in Nathan’s words, that reflect the rock-hard world of his experience. By firing these sniper gunshots of truth, Nathan refuses to shy away from the casualties created by our unjust world, instead he zooms the lens in closer, daring the reader to blink first”.

Sophie McKeand

“If you don’t want to hear profanities, look away now. Nathan Davies’ collection of tanka is not for the faint-hearted or conflict-avoidant, nor for the reader who finds it easier to feel pity than rage. Davies brings us up close and personal with his articulate anger, which has its roots in an intolerance of social injustice. These are important poems which punch above their 5 line weight, leaving us readers inspired, enraged, motivated to act and defeated before we’ve started. Every line is delivered in the authentic voice of someone who knows only too well what he’s talking about”

Liz Lefroy

These are humbling words and the fact that they come from two renowned poets that I admire completely, means so much to me. They have both influenced my writing, and made it possible for the book to be created.

While I am giving out thanks, I must pay tribute to Ter-Jaiden Wray who designed the front cover and my friend and poetic mentor Ted Eames, who has been instrumental in helping me reach this point.

I hope those who buy a copy, get much enjoyment from my poems…

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No Entry

I received the following email this morning, concerning the International Welsh Poetry Competition. This is something that I wrote about at the beginning of the year, when I was intending on entering a poem of my own.

There is now no way I will meet the deadline for entries, but even if I was in a poetic mood then I don’t think I would put my work up for the competition. I believe that all art is subjective, and cannot be judged in such a objective manner.

No one is getting the opportunity to say that their poem is better than one of mine, just like I would never say that my poetry is superior to anyone else’s.

Last Call For Entries!

We are fast approaching the deadline for the International Welsh Poetry Competition so if you want to enter and maybe win the 1st Prize of £500 then now is the time to get writing!  Award-winning Welsh poet and author – Mike Jenkins will judge and unlike some contests he reads all entries.

Please share this with any poets, writers groups, libraries and anyone else you can think of 🙂  We have already told literally thousands of people and organisations we think might be interested but if you can also help us get the word out that would be much appreciated.

1st Prize – £500
2nd Prize – £250
3rd Prize – £100

plus 17 runners up published on our website and in a future anthology.

Entry forms are available to download from our website –www.welshpoetry.co.uk

Judges website – www.mikejenkins.net

Also check out some of our past winners on our website.

Welsh Poetry Competition

Time for something different as the pressure increases with the #SaveWILG campaign. This morning I received news of the International Welsh Poetry Competition in my inbox and think that I may enter if I can get enough head space away from all this injustice.

I don’t fancy my chances with meetings lined up solidly until the 12th of never and my attention and determination solely focused on campaigning.

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Just a quick newsletter this month to tell you all the ‘13th International Welsh Poetry Competition‘ is now live and accepting entries!

This year we shall be offering the following prizes:

1st Prize – £500

2nd Prize – £250

3rd Prize – £100

plus 17 runners up prizes of being published on our website and in a future anthology.

Our judge for 2019 will be Mike Jenkins.

To enter just click here.

Closing date: Sunday 26th May 2019

www.welshpoetry.co.uk