Poetry in Pink (part 2)
As part of the partnership between the Pink Ribbon Foundation and the Autumn issue of the South Bank Poetry magazine, Co-Editor and Publisher Katherine Lockton interviewed Cordelia Feldman about her poetry, (which she has been writing since the tender age of seven) and her cancer journey. Cordelia completed the Birkbeck Creative Writing MA in 2007 and has written a young adult novel, In Bloom. She is now working on a Memoir and when not busy writing, she enjoys long walks with her dogs and knitting.
Why did you start writing poetry?
I started writing poetry aged seven and had early success with a poem winning a competition to be published in the Jewish Chronicle aged eight.
What kept you writing it?
I kept writing poetry during school and had poems published in the school magazine, so early success kept me writing. More recently, last year I was dating a singer/songwriter so I started writing and publishing poetry on my blog. I’ve been writing poetry on and off for thirty years now!
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced with your writing in terms of your health and breast cancer diagnosis?
I suffer from Bipolar 1 disorder, and when I was younger I found it difficult to write when depressed. A few years ago, I did Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month – and wrote 60,000 words in a month, which cured my writer’s block. In recent years I’ve blogged every day – first at “Scars, Tears and Training Bras” and then at “The Rapid Cyclist”: www.rapidcyclistwordpresscom.wordpress.com and “The Rapid Cyclist” Facebook page.
How does writing impact your health?
If I write something I’m pleased with it makes me feel good about myself. When I’m writing, I’m not thinking about how I feel but about the writing. Also, I find writing about bad experiences cathartic.
How has your health affected what you write about?
I started my first blog “Scars, Tears and Training Bras” to document my dating adventures after breast cancer surgery as I couldn’t find a blog out there addressing issues like how do you go about dating in a wig and false eyelashes due to chemotherapy. The blog came to people’s attention: I talked about it on Woman’s Hour, wrote about it in The Times and became involved in a film for the Estee Lauder Pink Campaign. Inevitably, I document meetings with doctors, scans and hospital appointments in my blogging.
In your poem Bait Ball you write “I become a Bluefin tuna/ Herding a bait ball/ Of confused mackerel” what are you trying to say about life and love?
The poem was inspired by a bait ball photo with the mackerel being herded by sharks, tuna and dolphins. I wanted to reverse the common trope of the man as predator and be the predator myself. I do a lot of fitness and strength training so the perfectly designed tuna, on whom battleships are based, seemed a good metaphor for me. And the mackerel are all the men herded on to a list of Tinder likes, waiting to be picked off by me and other women (the sharks and dolphins). * read Cordelia’s poem Bait Ball below
Has writing about cancer changed the way you view it and your relationship with it?
Since I have secondary cancer – my cancer has spread to my lungs – I’m aware that I may not have much time left to do all the writing that I want to do. So, I’ve started writing a Memoir and I’m working on that too every day now.
What would you say to others experiencing cancer who were thinking of starting to write?
If possible go on a writing course as they have really helped me with my writing – I was fortunate enough to do the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck which was wonderful. I recommend Stephen King’s On Writing too but the most important thing is just start writing! I write my blog on my phone so there’s none of that fear-of-the-blank-page business: just start fiddling with your phone and writing gets produced…
What do you see as the role of creativity in health?
Absolutely crucial. If you don’t write: knitting, gardening, tapestry, pottery and sketching are also good. Knitting is a particular favourite of mine as its easily portable to hospital appointment and doesn’t make a mess.
For more information about South Bank Poetry, please visit:southbankpoetry.co.uk
To learn more about Cordelia and her work, please visit: https://rapidcyclistwordpresscom.wordpress.com/
Plenty more fish in the sea they all say so
I become a bluefin tuna herding a bait ball
of confused mackerel.
They don’t know what’s coming to them,
this mass of tiny fish who congregate in vast numbers
for safety and receive the opposite
as they’re picked off by me, dolphins,
and, if they’re desperately unlucky sharks.
And here they are: balled together just to be consumed.
And here I am, searching for another pair
of ice blue eyes: a clear stare
that masks multitudes pale eyes a conduit to a soul.
Left swipe, right swipe some of the mackerel rejected:
too fat, tattooed, or “I have a three-year-old
princess and she’s my world” Yuck.
Or they don’t like dogs or cats.
Or they want to bloody travel
Or they’ve got their shirts off
Or their willies out
Or they don’t have photos
Or their photos are of their shit cars.
I’ve balled them together. I have a list.
Let’s see who swims into my sharp-toothed jaws.
Thrashing my tail: my muscled body, the basis for the design
of battleships. And this is how one finds love these days:
we all know people who’ve married someone they met here.
It’s depressing. But my preferred method: hunting them
in the street in broad daylight doesn’t work with mackerel.
So it’s swoop and click, chomp and swallow – flicking my strong tail.
The water shimmers on my scales: highlights the spines down my back.
I’m beautiful: the perfect predator – silver, blue and streamlined –
a vicious, silent hunter. Herding them into a tight ball and picking off the chosen ones
Drinking them down with the sea water. Trying not to choke.