This morning I gave a talk at the RNIB about poetry, read some of my own work and talked about writing processes and all that jazz. It was really interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion with everyone who came along. One thing in particular that we discussed was where the ideas for our writing come from. One of the participants said that she'd been looking through some of her old school exercise books from the late 1940s, early 50s, when she'd written poetry. A lot of it, she said, was about aliens invading the earth from Mars. At the time she swears that that's what she intended to write about, but now, when she looks back on it, she can clearly see that the aftermath of the second world war was nudging its way into her work. Albeit in a different form - but her subconscious was concerned about invasion, war and the unknown.
Agenda], is about a girl born with her legs joined together - a 'real life mermaid,' or selkie:
She never used to talk much. You said you always used
to come here
before your mum found amber bottles on a top shelf.
Before the operation where your sister’s legs were split
- because she’d arrived
in this world swimming. Your dad looking for a receipt.
I've always been fascinated by the origins of fairy tales and mythological creatures, which influenced a lot of these poems in this collection [at the moment called 'How to Weigh Nothing']. Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks make an appearance, along with saints that never existed, Eve leaving Adam for another woman, and many other strange things [a few of those are available over here, on page nine]. Also the deformity element is obviously in some form related to my own - and something which really freaked me out, finding out about The Lobster Boy - people with EEC living in freak shows with people paying to come and stare at them. I think I'll stick to the day job, thanks ;)
In with my North East related poetry is one called Kitchen, a poem which placed in last year's Kent and Sussex poetry competition and will be published in the next issue of The Rialto. It's a narrative: two girls, naked, in the narrator's kitchen talking about love, life and death, scared that one of their mothers is going to come home and catch them. Now, I've never hung out with someone naked in my mum's kitchen [I'm sure she'll be pleased to hear that if she's reading this], but clearly [to me, obviously to anyone else reading it they can make up their own mind], a lot of that poem comes from the anxiety I had about my parents finding out I am also attracted to girls.
...feet tapping on the floor. Your mother would be home soon.
To her yellow and white check tea towels and her hand-painted
and her naked daughter standing like Jesus in front of the
refrigerator. I grabbed your foot.
Some stories are things I've half remembered, or mis-remembered or half-heard things about other people. I suppose writing is our way of making sense of the world, and what's great about that is the poem or story we have written can mean something completely different to someone else [even the inital ideas]. So from memories, old folk tales, and personal stories grow other stories and other perceptions of those stories until they're something else entirely to many different people. I think that's what I love most about literature as a whole.