When I was mad I loved walking in the dark. I wouldn’t take a torch or a phone or anything I’d just walk, and I felt some relief, I felt invincible and I felt alive. Now I’m going to take a torch when I go out late, and maybe a phone if I feel as vulnerable as I possibly might be. I have to learn myself to take care of myself, to not tempt danger or let myself go, but to stay, as I tell myself visually, with bold letters: CALM, RELAXED, FOCUSED, and in CONTROL.
Today was a lovely day, I hardly had to tell myself at all. I went to a reading at Manchester Art Gallery by Pascale Petit, reading from her lovely collection ‘What the Water Gave Me,’ poems after Frida Kahlo, published by Seren Books. I have always admired Frida, and her work, and it seems there were lots of fans in the room which was completely full, and there were plenty of questions answered at the end and I got a signed copy of Pascale’s book, which I will read and maybe write some of my thoughts down here… Pascale mentioned a recent review which said the book was ‘a slaughter-house shot through with sunshine.’ I liked that. All the pain and also all of the jubilation of Frida was explored… She was so full of life.. Pascale managed to write, in the first person, Frida’s voice, or rather a mix of halves as she said. She was very convincing, looking at the images on the projector screen and listening to her it was lovely to be carried away with it. Her poems have such beautiful rhythm, my husband is a musician and he said he couldn’t stop himself mentally drumming to them, which I thought was lovely. I like that she said that a great deal of the book was intuitive, I felt a lot of affinity in the way she wrote the book to the way mine has been compiled of intuitive poems of others or an other sort of mediated and invoked by me. I really hope that my book is as provoking, colourful and sublime as Pascale’s. I think she read superbly, seemed in control, and read like she meant everything she said, that there was more than just a little bit of her in the poems, that she was speaking from her own experience as much as Frida’s. I think that it is easy to see how Frida can be so inspiring, her near fatal accident, her recovery, her operations, her agony, her turbulent love affairs and marriage, her learning to paint through the trauma, and her stunning work. I loved ‘Self Portrait with Monkeys:’
‘It’s today, this very minute,
that life offers us its riches.’
I so often think nowadays about time and how moments are taken for granted, that all we have are moments, shifting relentlessly forward. The past is past. So these words are so important, so brimming with importance and fortune and love.
This evening I went walking while it was still light and the air was wet and cold and I was slipping on the fallen leaves. This is what I do to think, to channel things, to let thoughts mature, a bit like the Surrealists. Only I don’t wander so much as follow the beaten path, it’s the repetition I crave, the familiarity. I listen to music sometimes, but it has to have a repetitive beat, I just sort of let the cogs turn and let my breathing come in slow waves and I think my way in and out of different places and emotions in my head. This is how most of my work gets done. Poets can work incredibly hard without actually doing any writing. The thinking takes up half the time, the clasping inspiration, which for me is so often absent right now. I know I will write another collection, but I have no idea whether it will be in the next year or the next twenty years. I can’t not write poetry, but then I can’t always write good poetry. I think I have to imagine a project, something to keep everything in check and pull it all together, I wonder when my next project will take shape, it’s exciting just to think of it, I had so much fun and enjoyed writing the new book so much. I just wish I could find the title. It’ll come. The clocks ticking in the downstairs of my house are just out of sync, just faintly keep pulse-time while I’m writing. They just remind me to keep channelling to the moment and the day and the hour and not years back where there’s just pain. Oh I so wish I kept spider monkeys like Frida! Spider monkeys and parrots. How could anyone be sad in a room filled with spider monkeys.
My daughter turned eleven at the weekend. I feel older suddenly, have just been seeing myself age for the past year. I think to myself, all the stress I’ve been under it’s a wonder I don’t look worse. My daughter had a sleepover party and we went bowling and ate pizza and it all went well for her, except the bit where we woke to the smoke alarm because the girls were making us cheese on toast for breakfast. When she was born, I was a teenage mum with such an age of pain and sadness and hurt. She kept me strong. I often wish I was a better mother but I’ve always done my best for her, and I am so proud of her, she is an amazing creature.
Night is setting in….