Tuesday 27 December 2016

Back to Writing (finally)

It's always interesting to me how time off from teaching and the internet can start me writing again. Throw in a good poetry book or two and I am well away. After a worryingly dry spell that has lasted a good couple of months, just the odd poem here and there, I have written twenty two pages over the last three days. I put this down, in part, to the influence of Melissa Lee-Houghton's book Sunshine, which I received as a Christmas present. I had been looking forward to reading Houghton's latest collection as I really loved her last book Beautiful Girls. Houghton taps into some of the same themes that come up from my own past - although her past is even bleaker and darker, but somehow (like reading Sharon Olds and Pascale Petit) reading these poems gives me a kind of permission to return and explore some of the darker aspects of my own past. Of course it's not just the themes - I have to find the writing style exciting too and I do find Lee-Houghton's use of language both exciting and inspiring.

I am not largely (well I don't think I am) a confessional poet - although when I first started taking poetry writing seriously I did err towards writing in that style. In fact I wrote largely in a confessional style until mid way through my MA when my style started changing and evolving - it wasn't that I stopped writing about that stuff completely, but I felt less need to tackle those themes head on. A lot of the poems in my collection Bird Sisters, for instance, do touch on family tension and difficult (mostly familial) relationships, but they deal with them either in a fictional or a metaphorical way - for example in one sequence the narrator's sister is an owl.

These new poems that I have been writing are more in the style of my poem Friday Night King's Head, which was published on Proletarian Poetry earlier this year. Friday Night King's Head is from a sequence of stream of consciousness style prose poems that I have been writing occasionally over the last couple of years. The poems are dense and prosey - and usually explore one event or incident (Friday Night King's Head is about one Friday night in my old local). Sometimes the poems jump from one theme to another echoing the way memory and thought works, and sometimes they explore one subject more deeply - for example one of the poems is a list of things that as a child/teen the narrator was told not to do, each sentence starting with the word don't. The poem offers a slow revealing of the family dynamic - this poem was in part inspired by Lee-Houghton's poem A Good Home, which starts with the words "Don't run on the lawn." (In recognition of this I will put "after Melissa Lee-Houghton in italics below the title - I know there is a technical name for this but I can't think of it right now).

It feels exciting to be writing again after such a dry spell. It makes me realise how writing makes me feel happier and more fulfilled. I know I have been doing things that have been detrimental to my creativity - printing out all the Cafe Writers competition poems for example and i also wrote cover endorsements for a couple of books which takes concentration and close reading. I just hope that now I am back in the saddle that I can keep this writing momentum up.