Dollie Stephan

The Journey of a Poem – making the unconscious conscious

Some poems just arrive on the page complete. How do I know they’re complete? My honest answer is I don’t; in 16 years of writing regularly I have come to find a trust in my first response, not progressively, or accumulatively  but as only time may be understood as well as experienced, in clouds and swells of self-knowing. It wasn’t always like this and I’m sure it will change again – a circumstance or person will challenge my instincts for when to leave a poem alone; certainly I have ruined a perfectly good piece by over editing, just as I’m sure a  finer poet than myself could pick up a poem I’m happy with, diagnose its issues immediately and set about its surgery with relish. Esther Morgan, a brilliant poet and once university tutor, scrupulously edits her poems. It was in one of her tutorials that I was first introduced to an article written by Carol Rumens about the journey of one of her poems, ‘Moments of Faith’, that she’d been asked to write by Birthright (a charity researching into safer childbirth). I found the article fascinating, and have since returned to it often. In it, she describes the changes she made to six drafts of her original poem, detailing not only her reasons for the edits, but – and this is what engaged me – imagining the effect that each of these would have on the reader, as well as on the poem as a whole.

Yesterday I wrote a poem that was not complete in its first draft. As I have attempted to articulate above, knowing whether it is complete or not involves instinct, but also experimentation. In my collection I have 14 drafts of some poems – some definitely improved by 14, others at their best by 7, on reflection. It seems I’m not alone; in her article, Carol Rumens concludes by admitting ‘I still feel I may re-work it! I went on being dis-satisfied with version 5, and feeling that 4 was better […] I decided to try it with a simile instead of a full metaphor in the first verse’ (p.152). This instinct, this trial and error, is undoubtedly subjective. Despite the centuries-old knowledge and teaching of ‘what makes a great poem’ widely available to writers, there is no formula (thank god) by which a perfect poem may be arrived at. Instead, I understand the writing and editing process as an unconsciousness made conscious, an allowing of words and ideas to flow and take their own shape initially, employing a mental or ‘critical’ editor as secondary to the first – and I mean secondary, as losing touch with the integrity of that initial voice can be detrimental to the lifeblood of the poem.

So, for whom are we editing, and to what effect? Whilst listening to her own secondary, critical voice to make her edits – ‘On the whole I like the poem […] I feel a strong emotion in the poem, I am moved by it’ – Carol Rumens also endeavours to avoid the long established pitfalls of writing as ‘agreed to’ by a consensus: ‘I think I’ve avoided sentimentality. I’ve certainly managed to avoid rhetoric, something I find very difficult when strong feelings are involved. My most deeply-felt poems always sound my most fake’ (p.151). For me, she strikes here at the heart of the tension that exists in much (popularised) ‘confessional’ poetry – the requirement to represent experience in language as keenly to its felt sensations in the individual as to those of the writer’s readers (plural). I have long struggled with this in my own poems. For as long as I can remember, so-called confessional poets, who blurred the boundaries between ‘real’ experience and imagined/ magical/ dream-based experience, inspired me the most. The emotional short-hand of Plath, for example, communicated a knowing in me that is difficult to articulate now, except that to acknowledge that my early poems were filled with the urgency of colour, fear of patriarchy and god as insurmountable nature-force ( I once ended a poem about desire for suicide, unoriginally, with a Plathean image of  ‘this emptiness/ this dark star’). At a similar time, age 17, I first read ‘The Wild Iris‘, by Louise Gluck, and later went onto buy her collection by the same title – poems written in the language of flowers. It blew me away! Here was to be found a female voice, so pure and true, neither confessional nor anti-confessional, a voice which did not cut out its own tongue, but arrived ‘as consciousness/ buried in the dark earth’ (The Wild Iris, 1992). Some of her lines have never left me, the speaker’s honesty in ‘Matins’, for example, renders the reader more than a confidant, almost an intruder –  ‘I walk the front lawn, pretending/ to be weeding. You ought to know/ I’m never weeding, on my knees, pulling/ clumps of clover from the flower beds: in fact/ I’m looking for courage, for some evidence/ my life will change’ (1992)- is this meant for us, for a god, or self? To write in the images of nature, time, the planets, birth and rebirth, the self, has long been an assumed cliché for female poets – but a cliché determined by whom? The immediacy and vibrancy of Gluck’s language, as well as its form and space on the page, doesn’t ask for permission to be heard:

‘I tell you I could speak again: whatever

returns from oblivion returns

to find a voice:

from the center of my life came

a great fountain, deep blue

shadows on azure seawater.’

(The Wild Iris, 1992)

In contemporary British poetry today, many younger poets are exploring the voice of the ‘anti-confessional’ in their writing. As Nathan Hamilton, editor of Dear World & Everyone In It, writes in his introduction, ‘there are two general modes in UK and US poetry: “Product” and “Process” ‘, where ‘ ‘The “Product” relies on pragmatic assumptions of “common sense”, or a “common knowledge” realm of reference’, one that ‘assumes the fundamental reliability of an expressive self-hood’ (2013:17), and where ‘Process’ is the approach that ‘is concerned with poetry as a way of speaking about the world that simultaneously presents the difficulties of doing so’ (2013:18) – it will be of no surprise to learn that the poems in the collection are concerned with the latter. To me, this makes sense. Crudely put, to assume that language has universal meaning or value attached to each grapheme, or combination of them, that in itself may be used to replicate experience truthfully, rings false. That experience may be reliable is one point of contention, that words used to represent it have a fixed meaning/ association is another. This is not an original thought. Roland Barthes pointed to the role of the writer as an ‘editor’ in the very act of writing – just as the reader is an editor in the act of reading – defining a text as ‘a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original  blend and clash’ (1967). In her major work, La Rire De La Meduse, in 1975, Helene Cixous became concerned with l’ecriture feminine, i.e. that there is a difference between the way men and women express themselves, that written language, having been  the tool of men, does not traditionally allow women to express themselves. I became fascinated by this at university, and referred to her term ‘white ink’, in one of my poems (fairly representative of my none-too-subtle oeuvre at the time!):

She

She;

Touch her there,

Touch the trampled spaces,

Trace the thick tip

Of your tongue

Along the tear.

O sudden peal of

Church bells, matchless

In the darkness.

Colour her life

With the chaos of Christmas,

The colour of burnt sienna,

A charcoaled flesh;

Still your screams, while you

Catch the clouds and

Hold your breath. Watch

Her begin, opening,

Writing in white ink.

Moving swiftly on. Whilst her definition is gloriously vague, Cixous describes female writing as ‘always endless’ and ‘difficult to read’ (1981; 53); she exhorts women to ‘write herself: [..] write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies’  (1976;875); she maintains that women’s writing is grounded in the body. Through a mindfulness course, I read and discussed principles arising from Arnold Mindell’s Working with the Dreambody. I experienced for myself how messages from the unconscious, whether in dreams or an awake state, are communicated through postures, symptoms and sensations felt in the body. I was drawn to the course by my interest in dreams, and their presence in images and language contained both in my own writing and in the writing that moved me; I hadn’t predicted how conscious I would become of my unconscious body, and this found its way into my poems repeatedly (in one session, a woman sitting opposite me described a dream about an iris opening like wings, when I had just written the same central image in a poem, having experienced aches and shifts along my shoulder blades).

Explicitly, or in-explicitly in my poems, I have been drawn to use form that leaves space on the page and indeed renders a poem ‘difficult to read’, just as I have been attracted to read poems that play with and shift in line breaks, form, space, article, punctuation and tense. In a similar and perhaps more visceral way, I remember being mesmerised by Cornelia Parker’s An Exploded View, 1991, effectively the would-be contents of a garden shed suspended in space, as if an explosion had just occurred  Not only did the objects themselves take on an eerie significance, their physicality seeming re-imagined when floating at eye level, but the space (some might call this ‘negative space’) between them was exhilarating to me. On the page, space left between words – either to indicate a pause, where a comma, dash or semi-colon might be used – or to indicate a word unsaid, or unable to be said, or non-simply to indicate space (pregnant/ empty/ eternal/  unmanifested) is, to me, as essential as the words themselves.

Two Emilys, Emily Critchley and Emily Berry, are writing and publishing exciting poetry now. Emily Critchley uses punctuation and space in such a way as it becomes a shorthand, her own language tools – and I love it!

[….] Counting your assets daily

won’t save others from the

quiet little engine, she’s so wanted to be loved, she doesn’t want to be loved.

I.e., always the indeterminate unknown term to be sung after!

(Present Synchronicity, 2013: 121).

This ‘fucking up’ of tense, line breaks and voice appeals to me, not only for their conscious inter-textuality and demand for the reader to be active in meaning making, as referred to by Barthes, but for their redefinition of the hitherto agreed upon rules of shaping writing. (A contemporary of Critchley’s, Marianne Morris, has written a really interesting essay on her book Love/All That/ & OK and Emily has responded.)

Jack Underwood, whose work also appears in Dear World & Everyone In It, is again a poet  writing exciting stuff now! (I’d recommend his blog ). A lecturer at Goldsmiths and a teacher on various Poetry School courses, Jack’s question to his students as a suggestion for knowing if their work is worth publishing ‘Why Should Anyone Care?’ seems a sensible one. I myself kept this in mind two years ago, when I first worked part-time to allow myself more time and space for writing. Indeed years ago it had been gently put to me by Esther Morgan that some of my poems were potentially locking out the reader, such was their obscurity. I took this on board. Subsequent poems were edited and re-edited in what I now take to be a more ‘Product’ driven endeavour, imagining that I might, with each new draft, get closer to the meaning I had intended, ensure each word was working hard. It was Jack’s question that wouldn’t leave me. Why indeed should anyone care? But so, too, floated a sub question – why should it matter that anyone cared? In fact, who does one write for? It was whilst talking to a lovely poetry friend of mine, Helen, that this question really took hold. We were unconfidently discussing our poetry writing and attempting to brace an ‘I’ll show me yours if you show me mine’ agreement. I explained that while, secretly to myself, I was quite often happy with my poems, I was terrified of their reception by other people. Helen revealed that for her it didn’t matter about potential critics, the worst was herself – that she wrote for herself and the problem was that she was rarely happy with any of them. If a lightbulb was able to switch on above my head, then it did. Of course! I remembered my original hunger for writing – if one doesn’t write for oneself then what is the purpose (again, to partake in ‘Process’)? But, to refer to my original point, if the process is all, then why bring it to consciousness, why edit at all?

With Helen’s thoughts on her own process and Jack’s question (and implied sub question) in mind, I decided to write poems (without a hitherto determined subject or number) for no imagined audience but myself. I wanted to explore what it would be like to be quiet. To communicate directly from my unconscious to my unconscious. There would be a shorthand: images as references only, abbreviations, punctuation or no punctuation, without rule; space left where no more needed to be said for something in me to understand; internal and external thought-forms/ objects happening simultaneously as they occur; no titles (why would I need titles, I’d know what the poems were ‘about’?) and most challengingly, if edited then edited only to abbreviate or substitute meaning for immediacy.

1        

                                                                                                        love

-d                              in love, belove                 black-ed mint, its

needles   wires                        glow bulbed                       (a little

dream each), the matter invisibly

multiplying                                 not surround sound, but

& silence                                before light even                         the

grass empties itself of wetness quite

as water touches itself where knowing

is                                  needle tap their wire message

after                             or before

closest to black                both sound or silence           crouch

eyeballing shin to shin                                look                     their

foreheads                 love                                       were touching

It would take another blog post/ essay to describe in full my experience of writing these poems. The project (if it is one) is unfinished, and I don’t know how long it will go on for; that’s part of the joy. Each new poem finds its place in a sequence that is insequential. At the moment, for the sake of reference, I have given each poem a number (see above). The few that won’t make the final collection have retained their number, meaning  that if the numbers persist to the last, there will be gaps. Although many of the poems may be read as an entirety in themselves, they are intended to exist as part of a collective (perhaps closer to a longer poem split into parts). This one, I think, demonstrates this:

5

Joy was wall’s imitation of a rainbow

joy. Mirrors in a floorless box

at the square of left-hand

oh fluorescent scribble, ever

cascading shower, pulsing mist

your cheek blinked blue ultra-

violetredpinkorange-green you said

you saw me in a different light, etc.

 

I tend to write first drafts in my notebook and edit on my laptop after. There’s something about writing in hand that allows for greater flow at the beginning. My first draft of ’10’ wasn’t great. Unlike the others it seemed to be inspired by an experience of an event that I was attempting to retell, or re show, to an imagined audience, rather than communicating directly with myself, ‘simultaneously present[ing] the difficulties of doing so’ (18: 2013).

10

(who gave me this) to sit beside a child her name

is Charlotte peel back each skin to space      write

ourselves a summer      a spring I write

the thirteenth hour is April      a pendulum

swing each year my life stops & starts

again       midnight garden       again wet hair, ecstatic

water      Charlotte writes her experience       bare

feet in grass        daisies (what do I know)

& the grass waved goodbye on its own

line       it is like this every second

Tuesday at 5.15 a girl sits beside

a smaller girl there is           an absent girl

between us

As well as redrawing the spaces – I felt the first thought needed its own line, creating fourteen lines in total and therefore dividing the poem in two with the indent at ‘Charlotte’ (see below) – I wanted to reduce some of the images. I didn’t like ‘peel back each skin’, it was too heavy handed and, anyway, its attempt to describe the physical space between the teacher and the child is realised more completely in the last two lines. On re-reading, ‘stops’ sounded clumsy, it made me stop and place stress on’ &’, as the rest of the line’s metre is iambic; also ‘starts’ ‘each year’ implies a pause precedes it. I loved and then hated ‘experience’, it was too telling and divided hers from the teacher’s (which is the opposite of the shared and blurred experience hinted at in the rest). I liked the line break after ‘second’, rendering the perception of time as inaccurate, and so I deleted ‘Tuesday’. Oh and ‘water’ went; ‘wet hair’ said it. Version 2:

10

(who gave me this)

to sit beside a child her name

is Charlotte      write

ourselves a summer      a spring I write

the thirteenth hour is April      a pendulum

swing each year my life starts

again       midnight garden       again wet hair, ecstatic

Charlotte writes            bare

feet in grass        daisies (what do I know)

& the grass waved goodbye on its own

line       it is like this every second

at 5.15 a girl sits beside

a smaller girl           an absent girl

between us

The first thing that felt wrong was ‘midnight garden’; I’d intended a reference to the child’s story book (hour strikes 13, etc.) but decided ‘thirteenth hour’ did this for me anyway (remembering the shorthand I’d promised myself). In any case the written ‘garden’ in my mind was ransacked, rather than romantic. Having just signed a petition to retain the skate park on the South Bank, it was this image of a graffitied urban space, claimed by children, sold off for a price,  that prevailed – also, its sullying effect on ‘wet hair’ felt right.  I lost ‘again’ as unnecessary, even though I’d liked its repetition, and ‘at’ for the same reason. ‘Absent’ felt too cold, and too final. I tried ‘missing’ instead – this seemed to carry a longing quality, as well as a younger person’s understanding – also, the ‘ing’ rang faintly back to ‘spring’ and ‘swing’. Version 3:

10

(who gave me this)

to sit beside a child her name

is Charlotte      write

ourselves a summer      a spring I write

the thirteenth hour is April      a pendulum

swing each year my life starts

O hocked skate park       again wet hair, ecstatic

Charlotte writes            bare

feet in grass        daisies (what do I know)

& the grass waved goodbye on its own

line       it is like this every second

5.15 a girl sits beside

a smaller girl                 a missing girl

between us

To my mind, version 3 is the best (and it is to my mind that I am appealing!) Of the three, it communicates to my unconscious most directly, and is most concerned with the revelation of process (and the unreliability of language to convey meaning). I’m still not sure how well it sits among the others in the project, but it was certainly written in the same spirit.

Meanwhile I feel fortunate to be able to  experience writing in this way, and these little ‘moment[s] of faith’, urging me on or telling me when to stop.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

‘Moment of Faith: Worksheets’ – Carol Rumens

The Wild Iris, Carcanet, 1992 – Louise Gluck

Dear World & Everyone In It, Bloodaxe, 2013 – ed. Nathan Hamilton

Death of the Author, 1967 – Roland Barthes

The Laugh of The Medusa, University of Chicago Press, 1976 – Helene Cixous

Castration or Decapitation?, University of Chicago Press, 1981 – Helene Cixous

Working with the Dreambody, Lao Tse Press, 2002 – Arnold Mindell 

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Seventeen months, one week

  
I think this is a beautiful photo.  It was taken this morning in the common near us.            One year ago today was the last time she fed from me. And today was the last time I’ll express for her. 

Heart-next-the-Sea

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I’ve just come back from a short stay in the North Norfolk coast, a place I’ve been returning to with my husband since we first went there as students in 2001. It had been a day out with friends looking for Cromer and then the beach at Holkham (which I remember we never got to see due to a foot and mouth disease outbreak!) And then we sort of parked along the quay at Blakeney and bumbled along the spit and the sky grew into the salt marshes and that was that. It was love.

A few years later when we first moved to London, we drove back to that coast one weekend and somehow found it again, despite forgetting the name, and as stories go, we were about to turn back after searching in the rain all afternoon and… there it was. We both grew up by the sea, but it’s hard to describe the simultaneous earth anchoring and heart lifting that actually happen as one walks (skips) along, the tinkling boats leaning to one side, the marshes and salt flats tipped with low flying birds to the other, and somewhere dark brown and blue on the horizon, the sea and sky are unreachable.

This time we rented a cottage, and in place of  what had been very drunken meanders back to a B&B, we took it in turns to wander out for ten minutes in the evenings with a smuggled glass of wine!  We two are now a three with our daughter, who at sixteen months and toddling, laughed and laughed when the wind nearly pushed her over. She loved the dogs that were off their leads, especially an old labrador named Rosie who was ignoring her owners calling. She also liked picking the flowers from the hedgerows and would refuse to give them up, so that she fell asleep gripping rather sad looking poppies and buttercups.

My only regret was missing the Poetry-next-the-Sea festival, which had taken place the previous weekend in Wells. We spent an afternoon in Wells-next-the Sea, browsing the shops and sharing an ice -cream. The harbour is vast and a little steam-train runs the length of the wall to the sea. There’s more of a working, real town feel to Wells (along with a school and a football pitch), in contrast to what a friend has called the ‘Farrow-and-Ball’ villages dotted along the coast road.

I was pleased to revisit Stiffkey Stores and Made in Cley, and no trip to North Norfolk would be complete without a visit to Cookie’s crab shack in Salthouse. New to our travels, we found the BlueJacket showroom in Morston, where I treated myself to a hand-knitted cushion with its story on a label (I’m beyond help!) Behind the shop’s little wild garden I hadn’t expected to see fields of lavender, growing right up to the marshes.

 

 

Zone 2

Four poems from a sequence of nine (ten) – which I blogged about – have been published in the second issue of Zone Magazine. Edited by Kat Peddie and Eleanor Perry, the magazine publishes a mixture of poetry and word art that I find very exciting. The issue is being launched tonight in Canterbury at Mrs Jones’ Kitchen, 60-61 Place Street, CT1 2DY. I will be reading, along with contributors, Mendoza, Duncan MacKay, Laurie Duggan, Dorothy Lehane and Peter Hughes. It should be a great evening – and a must-attend for anyone in the Canterbury area!

zone

Poems In Which issue 5

The excellent magazine Poems In Which has recently published its fifth issue. Again, it houses many seriously good new poems by exciting writers – Charlotte Geater, Crispin Best and Kathryn Maris – to name but a few. Poems In Which has also been shortlisted in the Saboteur Awards for best magazine (congratulations editors Nia Davies and Amy Key) and you can vote for them here

Notebook (ie. rushed, incomplete, non- , over time)

Don’t overreact
a miscarriage is not forgetful
is not mistaken

            lit. o’clock
            he is at work
            & I sucking, swallowing
            a quarter of view
all hardness, whiteness in; look, look
       I can be soft

so Philip Seymour Hoffman’s died,
it continues to rain,
Somerset is somewhere under water

I have nothing to say to anyone,
                                                 except to you
I offer you this window, suivez
        la patience de ta mère

 

*
hyacinths and roses in a jar
chained                    enormous
traffic jam
fireflies
pavement howling

my heart is a beggar

 

*

I do and do not know that I am loved.

A streak of moonlight across midnight sea

                          what peace and what freedom
                          how leaps my heart
                          to see the moon’s reflection
                          on the waves, and body is movement
                          and a howling, and stars hidden
                          behind clouds pulse, pulse.

 

*

There is a possibility that his face is
a transparency overlain on the same
blurred features I strain to recognise
in many dreams of him

Last night I went to bed
with the sun and in the dark he
warmed my backside with his erection.
He touched me gently but his hand
print began to burn as if I had been
spanked

Although I am a woman I am not
the earth my breasts are not ears of
corn but god they want to be sucked

Yes someone, a woman, who looks like
me goes to bed with the sun wearing
your face, a terrifically bright mask,
and she becomes easily pregnant
with a child.

Winterson – Eliot

I am reading Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson which is difficult not to be moved by, most strikingly by her need (not merely emotional) to escape into/manipulate for herself text. She describes the moment of first reading Eliot at her local library (a place where she might read in secret) and her reaction to the words is simple to understand:

‘I read: This is one moment, / But know that another / Shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy.

I started to cry.’

She goes on to write:

‘So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that [..] it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is’.

This statement is obviously subjective and considerably emotive, however I resonated with its final line; not that poetry offers a language that is ‘tough’ in the sense of difficult or incomprehensible – although it may – nor that it may not capture the vulnerable and ephemeral qualities of meaning and experience, but that it is substantial and difficult to break.

Poems In Which

I’m very happy to be part of issue 4 of Poems In Which, edited by the brilliant and awesome Amy Key and Nia Davies. Poems In Which is an online poetry journal which invites ‘poets to write ‘Poems in Which’, which must have a titled beginning ‘Poem in Which….’.’ This latest issue includes poems by Abigail Parry, Martha Sprackland and Fiona Moore (I am a big fan of them all); Melissa Lee-Houghton’s ‘Poem in Which the Codeine Doesn’t Take the Edge Off’ is so so good, as is Mark Waldron’s ‘Poem in Which I’m a Bird’. A facebook page has recently been set up for the journal, so do like and share it.

Going, going…

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So, another independent book store is closing. This time it’s one near where I live in Tooting, and one I have been using for about eight years. My Back Pages in Balham occupied the corner store opposite the train station entrance, with plenty of window space, through which could be seen second hand paintings and higgledy stacks of second hand and antiquarian books.  Its once gold awnings are now faded and even the shop’s letterhead has gone, but for a long time the store appeared to thrive, with new stock coming in every day, including brand new books, all priced very reasonably considering the impossible competition from the internet. Aside from the pure enjoyment of browsing,  I have picked up some classics over the years, such as Stoppard’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ and John Burnside’s ‘Gift Songs’, but also some gems – two rare editions of early writings by Kerouac, ‘The Scripture of the Golden Eternity’, and ‘Last Words’, as well as a signed copy of ‘The Sea & Ourselves At Cape Ann’ by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Recently I was pleased to find a second hand Animated Tales version of ‘The Tempest’ by Leon Garfield, for £1 – it has long been out of print (I adapted this version once for an outdoor production of the play with a Year 5 class in New Cross, and it was magic!) While I lament the closing of a treasured book store and suppose that it is the consequence of these hard times, as well as the increase of internet book sales through certain larger (previously VAT evading) companies, I myself am not exempt from blame. Despite regular visits, I doubt I was buying enough books to make much of a difference to the store’s sales, likewise I am guilty of occasionally purchasing books from larger online companies who can charge less, even though I know that buying directly from the publisher (especially small presses) and independent book shops like My Back Pages is essential in helping to keep these stay afloat. The closure of this book store will certainly leave a hole in the character and authenticity of a place like Balham, not to mention in the hearts of those who have enjoyed the pleasure that it the smell, feel and time spent with words on paper. The shop shuts for good this Saturday (14th) and is keen to shift its stock before then, so get down there for an array of very cheap books.

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V Fringe 2013

Spent this week on the Isle of Wight at this year’s Ventnor Fringe festival. It was excellent. I read at the lock-in on Thursday night, along with Toby Thompson, Indigo Williams and Maria Ferguson, each one amazing (easy to say, but I learnt a lot from their voices and experiences). Although bigger than previous years, the intimate nature of this festival means that there are countless opportunities to meet, talk and drink with artists, musicians, poets and people who love all of these. Highlights for me included watching fireworks disappear into the sea mist, seeing Champs and Tula and the Blackgang play in echoing churches, watching Last Shop Standing in the Secret Bar and the music/ film interplay of Magnetic Foragers… Also the box office’s window installation of a thousand butterflies made from maps (see the photo below). I recently wrote a poem inspired by a line from Champs’ latest release, My Spirit is Broken, and despite being in early stages it’s below to take a look at. For anyone who hasn’t seen Champs perform live, and I’d recommend it, they’re playing tomorrow night at Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston.

 

You Should Know That When I Say You I Don’t Mean You I Mean Stars

I don’t know what makes you sad
but you look as though you have
a heart that needs mending

I have heard you sing that the stars
only illuminate the dark, and
I think that you are grateful

I have noticed that when slicing a
lemon in half it is imperfect
& I am swollen with tears in
gratitude; sometimes I thank
the lemon

the sea and the sky are also swollen,
together they deny colour but heap
their weight onto us merely attempting
to stand and breathe, the effort is
exhausting. I have read
that all the beautiful systems
are an attempt
to keep meaninglessness out
of the universe

after reading that I wrote it down
so I couldn’t forget, it felt helpful

there were visuals to accompany it:
arrangement, then rearrangement
of infinite numbers in order,
& colours, including black and white

really, the effort of it now seems
exhausting, those digits
in couples connected to each other
for ever, if forever has a
beginning and an end between
one star & the next

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