Wednesday 26 July 2017

some thoughts on subject matter and away time

In my writing at the moment I am exploring place/time/class through methods that are both usual and more experimental than in my first collection. I plan to explore the idea of "hometown" and what it means and how it is located in time and space - and currently I am exploring my own experience of hometown by writing about the place where I grew up. I am exploring in the idea of belonging and not belonging through examination of my own past and experiences growing up in a small town in rural Norfolk in the 1980s -  a small town fraught with its own particular prejudices and restrictions.

When I was away for a few days recently I began to write a sequence of poems that are a more fictional exploration of the them. To really get inside a sequence one needs time and space. I find it takes me two to three days to switch off and tune in, by the third or fourth day away I start to write in a new and more exciting way (unfortunately I only had four nights away this time). Sequences that spring from these away spaces and reading times are very different to to poems and sequences written at home; they arrive from an unbroken thread of creative thinking and I may, given the time, write ten to fifteen poems about the same characters or on the same subject over a few days. I won't keep all those of course, but writing that many means that I really explore something deeply and that the finished poem will only contain the strongest of the stanzas/poems I have written. It is important to mention too that reading is an important part of this process.

I was trying to describe to a friend how this away time works on me and I could only liken it to an opening out of the brain. At home (and in the city) I my thinking feels very constricted and compartmentalised. I do a lot of different things and consequently I have lots of different threads of thinking tumbling over each other vying for space - writing/reading/editing Lighthouse/teaching/Biblio/Stanza/social stuff/Gatehouse/domestic chores/my son/mentoring etc. I cope with this by trying to contain each thing - but it means that my head is very crowded and stressed. When I go away I am able to put most of that stuff aside and after a while it feels like my mind is expanding outwards - a bit like someone taking the blinkers off and allowing the light to pour in. It is a great feeling and I would really like to try doing it for longer than a few days at a time because I suspect that it would have a dramatic effect on my writing. Unfortunately finances do not allow for that right now.