Janet McClean*

MEETUPS: February,  September

PROJECT: to develop work for a first pamphlet, possibly mixing poetry and short prose.

QUOTE ONE :   Instructions for living a life.  Pay attention.  Be astonished.  Tell about it. 

QUOTE TWO : Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that. Mary Oliver

QUOTE THREE :  If not now, when?  Anon

QUOTE FOUR : I burn but I am not consumed.  Karine Polwart 

QUOTE FIVE : Wherever you come from is a holy place.  Kate Tempest 


Writing this progress report, along with a poem for the Almanac and other snatched writing in April feels like bobbing up from a deep dive.  Or rather bobbing up having been trapped under water for longer than is comfortable.  A gasping in of precious air.  Bit of a dramatic description I know, but an authentic response to finding occasional space from all the day to day stuff that sucks up time like a demented-super-sucker-vacuum.  (Like the very vacuum I’d love to own but just won’t buy because, although invented in the UK, they are made somewhere cheap as chips in Asia.  Yes cutting off my nose to spite my face!)

 I may have written little but I have enjoyed more reading.  In particular Kate Tempest’s ‘Hold Your Own’ (and hearing her on Start The Week today) and also Mary Oliver’s ‘What Do We Know’.  I marvel at Mary Oliver’s description of a ‘Mink’ as “jointless as heat” and can immediately visualise its lithe and beautiful body in motion.  Kate Tempest’s poem ‘These things I know’ starts with the lines “Language lives when you speak it.  Let it be heard.  The worst thing that can happen to words is that they go unsaid.”  With that in mind I look forward to speaking my own words at my next Project 17 opportunity on 20th May, and just to remind myself I add these words also from Kate Tempest “Wherever you come from is a holy place.”


As I listen to Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead, I consider the picture kindly sent by Sue plus the photo of the Isle of Skye I found recently.  The picture and the photo seem perfect counterparts – I find the first invites a feeling of a contraction the second a feeling of an expansion, both physical and emotional.  This seems like the right time for some ‘free writing’.


 Janet (2009) www.frankmcclean.co.uk



I feel in such rich and experienced company on Project2017 that the temptation to hide is strong…..but then I’d be hiding from my own project which needs to be honoured in whichever way I can.  So to start.

I am gathering and editing all the bits of writing I have done since starting writing again over the past 2 years; all the stuff in various notebooks in various stages of being worthy and giving them an airing to see what life still breathes, what may be possible to resuscitate or what I will kindly kiss goodbye.

It feels important to do this housekeeping to make space for whatever else comes, be it new or through the process of clearing.


Door 6516 into Project 17

And so to start

Sitting in this room full of writers

Listening to jewels echoing in the ear

Our lioness urges the pride

To strive for

Truth and excellence

Excellence in Truth

Kindness but no false flattery here

I scribble in pencil

A Papermate with rubber attached

For ease

To erase any clumsy word smudges

And so to start

27th FEBRUARY 2017

The phrase ‘I burn but I am not consumed’ just keeps rolling around in my mind since watching the most excellent folk singer Karine Polwart’s performance of her song poetry, part spoken part sung, as the voice of the Isle of Lewis where Donald Trump’s mother was born.


The narrators voice as the island gives the piece such power, beauty, a sense of timelessness and yet hope.

It will be interesting for me to note how this informs my own writing going forward.


One comment on “Janet McClean*

  1. Look forward to meeting you on Saturday, Janet. I’m a fan of Karine Polwart, too!


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