Whispered words of stripped timber, Chanted like a spell under hot breaths, Like a song hurried through and felt. Quiet storm, do I want thee? Do I want to be, To be degraded as if in acid rain, To be a reduced solution, Part of it finally, My affects wiped away, Like paint chips journeying down the drain, Accompanied only by a swelling of circumstance.
Perhaps it is good to be reduced, Be forced towards childishness, To have to inhabit a time, When dreams were boundless, And outside of reason, A time before the weight of the appropriate and the likely. Perhaps it is a needed antidote, To the certainty and uncertainty of creeping adulthood, Perhaps we should not grow up all at once, But only in the useful branches, And stay young and budding in a few varieties of ourselves.
And then I spy a hole, Between here and my vibrancy. For just a moment, I can be excited, passionate, loud, And I can see why and how, I can be all those things and more. I have found that place, Where I do not worry or weep, For things I believe I am missing, I do not get stuck in notions of futures, Of missteps and inaction, I am living in action, And am free of the weight, That before I let crush me on this side of the wall.
The first clear memory I have of reading a poem is more of a sensation. Reading Spike Milligan’s The Squirdle when about eight years old instigated an erupted giggle, coupled with a feeling of confusion. I hadn’t realised that something publishable could be silly and nonsensical, that a work sold for profit could have lines that existed in both phonetic and visual imaginaries, ‘I think I thunk I thought/I saw a Squirdle by my door’. From the moment I read this poem, I felt like writing could be as silly as the strings of thoughts in my head.
Then I started secondary school. And all the promises of silliness were tested out of me with mark schemes, exam boards, criteria, and carefully curated syllabi with poems that varied in style but replicated the same enormous emotions that were beyond my years. To read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 ‘But thy eternal summer shall not fade’ made me feel small. How could I capture such intense feelings of love or sorrow, when my crushes still came in the form of that week’s blockbuster leading man? Our time in class was spent more acutely analysing the forms of the poems rather than searching for these feelings in ourselves.
I still loved these classes, within the perimeters of love that we could have for the allocated slots given to each poem. Yet, the love was put away, other than the occasional scribble, as I waited for the pressure of key stages to ease.
And now, well, since the beginning of pandemic-induced isolation, I have noticed myself seeing poetry in everyday things, seeing haikus in three-minute conversations. It wasn’t so much that I had picked up something left behind, but rather I had started something entirely different, characterised by the person I was now, and the unfolding experiences of the last year. I no longer saw poetry as only presented in the form of marked and dramatised verses, or the nonsensically fluid rhythms of childhood beats. Instead, I felt poetry could be the smallest truth, a minute detail of a day expanded into a feeling, a thought left behind longing for company.
As poet Carl Sandburg gently puts, ‘Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance’. Writing a poem can be grasping at the discarded details of a day full of things that seem to matter. It can be shouting but realising what matters might be what wasn’t said. It can be elevating stories that are pushed aside in favour of popular discourse.
And in lockdown, I had more time to think about these feelings and memories, these pulsations that otherwise would have been taken over by deadlines. So, I started a poetry journal. Well, I found a very tiny notebook, and started scribbling random thoughts that came to mind. The beauty of it was that no one would see these thoughts unless I wanted to share them. The thoughts could be pulled out as inconsistently and messily as I wanted them to be, as raw and heavy or as light and disingenuous as I needed, in order to eventually construct something that I was pleased with. I realised a poem could just be spilling a secret to yourself, sharing a detail you noticed between strangers. Or it could be a mixture of imaginaries, reality blended into what may have been. As I was released from the strain of what a poem was meant to be, I started furiously writing, knowing that if these poems ended up nowhere but in a messy pile in the corner of my room, I would be okay with that.
The benefits to my mental health were transformative. I felt freed of thoughts that I wanted to share but didn’t know how to. I felt a catharsis from unburdening feelings that I couldn’t explain but could write. I felt a relief from writing what I saw, things that didn’t need to be said but could fit very comfortably on a page.
Poetry became a way of emptying my frustrated mind of its contents, giving it some space to breath. Reading people’s poems filled me with glee, to know that others shared feelings I had, or in contrast could describe things I never thought to, was exhilarating. It made up for some of the experiences and feelings I was missing in such an insulated time. As gushy as it sounds, I became okay with being gooey, sharing notes with a party of one was the gateway to sharing them with others.
So, with that in mind, here is one of my scribbles. Reading it back now, I can see it is infused subliminally with some of the daftness of Milligan’s creations. These thoughts below represent a mixture of feelings, a squabble between a clear-minded youth and a frazzled present-day mind.
When I think of my youth
I think of the inside of my shoe
Frenzied laces tied late
And I think of milk and milky way dreams
rice milk water bottle warm
and thoughts that sit comfortably in a treehouse in my head
now the walls crumble
and the roof of my mouth stores unsaid words
I wander into smiles drawn outside of lines, deafening dreams in silent streets twinkling with peace
my youth is stencilled, traced, straight lines but with smudges that mark
when I think of youth I think of morning haze
now chilled by a blue bruise heart and days devoid of sugar as morning fades into day
muddy tracks and fairy tale crumbs covered in gunge
glow in the dark stars turned glow screens
when I think of youth I think of thoughts thought through
In response to Rinko Kawauchi’s dreamy works http://rinkokawauchi.com/works/, I worked in collaboration with Iryna Pustomytenko to create a video that explored human connection with nature and light as Kawauchi does, whilst specifically focusing on the breath.
In slowing down and appreciating the beauty and complexity of nature, human processes are clearly seen in connection with those natural processes. A nostalgic emotion is created in heightening these themes. Humans and nature are tightly interwoven/ connected with similarities.
Similar elements to Kawauchi have been used such as the sea, raindrops and light. A reference to her spark images has been used subtly at the end too with the credits.