It’s been a long time since I wrote any poetry. But, despite the lack of inspiration, and the fact that it’s probably the longest “dry” spell I can remember, I don’t think I’d really thought I was suffering from writer’s block, nor was I particularly worried that the muse would never come back. It was just a question of waiting.
In the meantime, I’ve written some prose and a lot of articles and copy for clients and for my business. I’ve been working with some other writers on their books and have just brought out a new book for business professionals who want to become authors.
Still, though, there was no poetry.
Many people think that all you need to be able to write is a chance to take some time out without other commitments, but I’ve never really thought that was the case.
Poetry has usually come to me when I have lots to do. At times, it’s been a real inconvenience as, once I get the kernel of the poem – that first nugget of inspiration, the first image or the first phrase – the poem won’t be silenced. The idea refuses to go away, niggling at my subconscious – and all too often breaking through into consciousness and demanding attention when I really ought to be doing other things.
When we lived in Spain, I used to walk a great deal, alone with my thoughts in the countryside. And that’s when I found most of my poems. There’d be a visual or phonetic spark and I’d find myself “walking my poems into shape”, setting the words to the beat of my pulse or the rhythm of my footsteps. (Which would go some way to explaining why my poetry is so heavily iambic.)
Perhaps it’s the high heels that I have to wear to go to business meetings or the interruptions of so many people in a built up area that have got in the way since I moved back to the UK and settled in the Midlands.
Then, a few weeks ago, the world stopped. It didn’t stop overnight, it gradually ground to a halt. And although I am still keeping busy, there is a kind of emptiness.
The fact that we are not supposed to go out more than once a day for exercise, and are only supposed to go shopping when we need to buy essentials, makes going out all the more precious. The freedoms we take for granted are suddenly at risk.
So, while it’s still permitted, I’ve made sure to go out each day and tried hard to avoid meeting other people. And on Tuesday, while scrambling around in the wooded area of the local park, I unexpectedly found a poem. Not a piece of light verse, but something that actually sounded as if it was written in my own voice.
I spent some time treading it out under the trees, pausing to write phrases in my notebook. Then, when I got in, I wrote it out, nudged and niggled it some more and shared it with a friend who made me reconsider some of the choices I’d made. It’s sitting now, in my files, waiting for me to distance myself enough to decide whether it’s finished.
And the only way I know to distance myself from my own writing is to fill my mind up with other words. They can, at a pinch, be other people’s words – binging on a cheap novel will work – but it’s better if they’re more of my own words. Working on the next project allows the brain to reset.
So it’s quite delightful to find that there are other poems in my mind. So far, they aren’t very polished, but here’s one that I found in the kitchen this morning:
We’re under orders; no ankle tag is needed
to keep us Eastering at home. And yet, how come
the neighbours went away? Temptation seeps
like sunshine through cracks in creosoted fences.
Our walls are closing in; the garden’s shrunk
– it’s just a yard; we find we need essentials
twice a day. So out we go again, flaunting
our eco-cotton bag-for-alibi, glad, now,
the neighbours aren’t around and we can pass