Friday, 21 February 2014
Poetry Blog Tour
The very gifted poet Matt Merritt has kindly invited me to join in as part of the 'round the blogs poetry tour'. My blog isn't exclusively about my poetry, more about odd things that appeal, or things I've noticed in the natural world, but is occasionally about my work.
There are 4 questions to elaborate on, and the first of these is a happy one:
What are you working on right now?
I am very engaged in working on a pamphlet right now, which Helena Nelson of Happenstance Press has agreed to publish. Its title is "Philomela" and it deals with rape, basing itself loosely on the myth of Tereus and Philomela, but set in today. In the myth Tereus, as you probably know, lusted after his wife's sister, Philomela, abducted her to a cabin in the woods, raped her, then cut out her tongue so she couldn't tell the story. But Philomela stitched the story into a tapestry: in revenge she and her sister Procne killed Itys, son of Tereus and Procne and served him up to Tereus as a meal. Pretty brutal stuff. They were all punished by being turned into birds: Tereus into either a hawk or a hoopoe - versions differ a bit - Procne into a swallow and Philomela into a nightingale, Itys into a goldfinch.
With all the recent publicity about rape and abuse I was interested in the silence that often surrounds such matters; in the myth this is symbolised by the tongue being cut out. I take that as a metaphor for the frequent unwillingness of victims to tell their story, also the way they have been silenced by their families, the police and the courts.
My work doesn't retell the myth but imagines the horror the victim goes through, and uses bird poems to echo the story in some way. It's a very harrowing subject to write about and I can only do so much at a time.
How does your work differ from others in the genre?
I've no answer at all to this: it's for others to judge.
Why do I write what I write?
There has been, without my choosing it or wanting it, a lot of demanding difficulty in my life. My first collection "The Plucking Shed" told something of my late husband's shocking passage through recurrent and progressive MS. My second collection "Rise"deals to some extent with my own efforts to survive late onset ovarian cancer. Both collections are also about many other things too, they're not exclusively focussed on illness! But I have found that in writing honestly about both matters others have been helped by the poems, and that has gladdened me. One poem in particular, "Message to the Well-meaning", has appeared on several online cancer forums. It seems to inspire courage and strength in sufferers, which is wonderful. I'm very happy that something I wrote could do that .
For myself these poems have felt like 'clearing the decks': my great love in life is the natural world and I write a great deal about it.
Finally I have written since I was a child and have always loved words and loved poetry. A case of 'I've started' but I'll never finish!
How does your writing process work?
In many ways. Sometimes to challenges set by other poets - I quite enjoy this. My local Poetry Society stanza leader, Robbie Burton, sets regular challenges on Cross Border Poets' website. Sometimes I can respond, sometimes not. It's fun to try! But however my poems come to me I always have to write them out in longhand first and then scribble out a lot of it before I'll type into the pc. Revision is very important.
My one problem is that I think and write fast, too fast, and then can't read what I've written, especially if I haven't got good paper. I mourn the loss of Onion Skin - does anyone remember it? Thin, elegant paper, often finely hammered, and writing on it was a real joy -the pen flew across it, it was the most receptive and welcoming paper in the world. The last time I was able to buy some was in Madrid in the 1990's. I still have 2 sheets of it left on one of the (many!) pads I stocked up with - have to save those for a really special poem...
The poet I've invited to continue this tour is Mandy Pannett