I went to a poetry reading on the 17thMay, Warwick Arts Centre, at the University of Warwick. Good writing always inspires me to write something, not necessarily good, so this is why that poetry reading inspired me to write a poem.
Louis de Bernières is a talented British writer best known for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. By his name you might expect de Bernières to be French but he is British. It is a shame that authors are not rated by their talent, by their choice of words, the quality of writing, since commercial success outweighs all else, the stories of the powerful survive as history is rewritten from their perspective. De Bernières is fortunate enough to possess both talent and acknowledgment though not as much as he deserves. He talked to a small, yet privileged, following of perhaps twenty people about his lifelong love of poetry, two folders of which he brought with him to delve into.
De Bernières, sitting on the theatre stage shared with us that he had overheard some beautiful, traditional sounding songs whilst visiting Greece. He had commented on them to a Greek friend who informed him that this was not traditional music but modern composers setting much loved Greek poetry to melody. De Bernières explored from there and was inspired.
My favourite book in the collection of poems, Imagining Alexandria, is The Brighton Dress. It captures the raw emotions of a past love, and how memory plays its tricks by flirting with imagination. The poetry reading was wonderfully informal. De Bernières flicked through his folder of unpublished works while people asked questions. One of the unpublished works he read was a favourite judging by the warm applause, was called something like Jackdaws and Ravens. He also gave a lively and vivid reading from one of his novels, A Partisan’s Daughter.
I was interested especially by part of the discussion which involved the poet Michael Hulse about poems with emotional content. During this De Bernières mentioned a poet who talked about fingers becoming roses. De Bernières said that a British poet couldn’t have written it, because we skirted emotion. I was not surprised, because in my own, poor, attempts at poems I always had the sense that I was trying to express something that often came across as clichéd and empty of the true emotion. But listening to De Bernières’ poems about his children, about his father, I realised I’d been going about these poems the wrong way because I’d being trying to capture the emotion and not the context. For example in the way The Brighton Dressdoes so beautifully. The whole history behind the lover and the dress is never explained, only a fragment. For after all what is poetry but a captured moment in time we care too much about to let go.
This inspired my first attempts to write in a new way. If as Hulse and De Bernières discussed there is a lack of emotional poetry I believe that is because it is a tough thing to make a living off poetry, as I think my mentor Douglas Dunn would agree. I feel sad that I did not take my chance to show Dunn my poetry, instead focusing on my prose, because I was anxious that my poems would be too emotional and unrefined compared to the complexity of his poems which I didn’t really understand at the time. I don’t understand everything now, but the difference now is that learning comes through asking questions, exploring the billion questions that pop into my head all the time, that make me write.
Especially now I am researching emotion, interested in the interaction between research and creative writing, I step hesitantly into the world of poetry, knowing that I don’t know enough of poetry to make a polished job of it. So this is a snap shot of the relationship between a mother and daughter.
I wish I had the mother that I wanted: the mum that gave warm hugs and kisses.
Except my memory is defective because a child sees a mother not the difficulty.
I keel for my mum, for me, and try, try to replace those overturned memories with the new
as we wish to be the mother that’s wanted, the daughter that’s wanted.
I have a vision that the complicated mess of this relationship is replaced by a clay dough family atop a wedding cake.
A perfect home where separation didn’t happen because the war didn’t happen,
she changed her mind before the wedding, and I was never born.
So we never found each other imperfect.
She would be free, dancing in the Cat’s Whiskers
and I’d be at peace.