Finding time to write poetry is a constant juggling act. I like to go into a slow space – somewhere more internal. Life doesn’t allow that quiet space often. I’m always writing on the go, where and when I can grab a moment.
Going into the poetry zone is a meditative process of listening to the undercurrents – the thought-foxes [as Ted Hughes once described them] that move through the undergrowth. I love this space. It gives me a feeling of being alive; an in-the-moment kind of space where the usual restrictive censorship doesn’t apply.
Getting there demands a certain degree of isolation; being free of interruption. I’ll often use music to enhance the emotional connection I’m looking for. Finding imagery feels a bit like probing the body for memories that want/ need to be told. Often, I find the images resonate from memories edged with a certain grief… the loss of a mother and my own resulting childhood descent into psychosis.
I gather up disparate strands and let them out on the keyboard. For example there was a phase in my youth, when I never knew who I’d see, staring back at me, when I looked in the mirror. There was something hypnotic about the way the face would morph from one image to another.
In a poem [still very much in draft], I’ve been playing with a series of memories that range over a period of 20 years. In the poem I’m trying to say something about the way that grief embeds itself. Some things we don’t ever ‘get over’ – and the mirror that refuses to look back is an expression of the extent the mind/ body will go to, to bring denial into our consciousness, so we can cope, get on with our lives, possibly? The poem begs a question, about why? Is it that the mirror can’t bear to reflect? Or that the person who is doing the looking refuses to see? It is also possibly a comment on the struggle to come to terms with mortality.
I’m not sure if it’s complete. If it says everything I want it to say? Perhaps reflecting back on having written this will help me decide.
The Mirror that wouldn’t look back
She had been shelling peas, neatly
into a tupperware bowl; pretending not to be,
when mothers' blanket slipped.
Sleep never came easily;
interrupted by the nightly carnival, playing
in dirty yellow light at the top of the stairs,
just beyond reach of her bedroom door.
A robber in striped jumper and eye mask
hovered with a bag marked 'swag'
big enough to take a whole life away.
And once, a lion with a full mane lingered
on the same spot, at the foot of slumber,
threatening to wake the house with a roar.
When terror turned the twilight corner
made a home in a cupboard for the damned
even the wall mirror refused to look back.
Image: Lost and Found by Colin Hambrook