more home thoughts

tree with hanging roots, Alicante
putting down roots?

The topics of home and place cropped up several times during my brief trip south.

As I said yesterday, for me – and for several other writers there – “Where is home?” isn’t an easy question to answer.

In the discussion, someone rephrased it as, “Where would you want to be when you die?”. But, apart from the obvious suggestion of “somewhere else”, I can’t really see that it matters.

This is not meant to be a blog about me, so it seems slightly strange to be talking about personal information; I’m including it, though, because ‘place’ is very important to a lot of my writing, and the phrase poetry of place is one that crops up a lot on writing workshop and course listings.

At her reading in Benissa on Saturday, Anne-Marie Fyfe said something to the effect that when we live away from our roots – albeit as voluntary exiles, which was the case for most of her audience – we tend to write about the place we have left behind.

Personally, I don’t find that to be so: mostly, when I write about place, I write about where I am. (Of course, it takes me so long to polish a poem that I may be somewhere else entirely before it’s finished.)

Another of Anne-Marie’s phrases that appears in my notes from Saturday evening is:

“Your poems become the story you tell.”

This fits in with my idea that facts are used as a stepping off point for writing, but should not then impose their own prosaic limits on what is written. Many writers create versions of themselves who people their poetry, and versions of places they have been where these narrators can live and act out stories made up of fragments of reality.

If such a world is drawn well, it becomes so vivid that the reader believes it must be true, which is where the narrator/writer dichotomy becomes important.

We’ve all seen how the version you tell of a favourite anecdote can, through repetition, come to replace the truth. In the same way, the places in our poems can become more real than the actual locations on which they were based, and the worlds we create can replace the real world.

Perhaps one reason close friends and family are notoriously unappreciative of our poetry is that when it steps off from past events and places that they know, they compare what is written to the truth as they remember it. But a poet is not usually writing a documentary account, and our creation is unlikely to coincide with their memories.

 

The tree in the picture is one of many along the sea front in Alicante with these great swathes of aerial roots. I think it’s some kind of ficus and I have no idea whether it’s native to the region. Even if it isn’t, though, it clearly seems to want to anchor itself to its current home.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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