It occurred to me today that, of all experiences, I find partings the most likely to find me reaching for my poetic pen. In my writing life I've turned to poetry when I've parted from people and animals (temporarily or permanently), from possessions and from places.
After I finished my Bachelor’s degree in 1994 I went with some university friends for a 5-week visit to America and Canada. We flew into New York and spent a week there before Greyhounding up to Toronto and Montreal, before returning down the east coast states in a rented car. I loved that experience, particularly the time in Ontario, and wrote a poem titled Across the Pond and Up a Tad, whilst sitting on the subway back to JFK airport.
The last contact broke,
with a kick in the back
more subtle and twisted than any knife;
(from the unpublished poem, ‘Across the Pond and Up a Tad’ by Giles L. Turnbull, 1994)
Ten and a half years later my family's first cat, Mopsy, had to be put to sleep on 26 December and once again I turned to poetry to keep her alive in a poem titled ‘Strange Sweet Laughter’. A reader would never know that the poem was about the death of a cat, but it's one of my favourite poems and I often reflect on it when I hear about people or animals that have died during December.
The reason this week's post is a day later than usual is because I was saying ta-ra to a poetry friend who came to visit for a few days. I visited her in Ireland about 18 months ago, which included me reading some poems at Fermanagh Writers in Enniskillen on my birthday. While she was here we felt the earth move ... in a non-metaphorical sense!
We caught the train / replacement bus service / train to Swansea University where I'll be returning to study MA Creative Writing later in the year. While we were there we sat for a while in the main library on the Singleton Park campus, and survived an earthquake!
An earthquake of 4.4 magnitude, thought to be Britain’s largest for 10 years, has been felt across Wales and South-west England.
Thousands of people reported the tremor, with its epicentre falling around eight miles northeast of Swansea city centre.
Alison Morgan, who works at Uplands Newsagents in Swansea, said: “My colleague noticed it first and wine bottles in the shop were shaking and a tile fell off the ceiling.
“I thought it was a lorry going past but it was an earth tremor.
“It was a significant feeling that went on for about two seconds – I was moving from left to right suddenly despite being stood on the same spot.”
(extract from this article in The Independent)
I wish I could report that all the books on the library shelves jumped up and jived in mid-air, but sadly I wasn't aware of that happening ... maybe it could in a poetic re-telling of the event though ;)
I often think it's much easier to be angry in a poem than it is to be sorrowful. Being sad can be hard to portray in a way that isn't highly personal. I used to think this when attending gigs by bands in my teens and early 20s — I didn't love the bands and the songs because they made me understand how the singer was feeling ... I loved the songs that made me feel like the singer knew how I was feeling. Any time I try and put sad feelings into a poem, I try and let it run on a long leash. Usually this involves taking my own immediate feelings out of the poem and using the ‘show don't tell’ approach — using the weather, the sounds, the colours, animals, toys or books to indicate the feeling.
Saying goodbye to my friend as she walked through the departure gate, I had an image of ants staring up at the sun, as a representation of watching a plane parting with the ground and heading off to a destination that would seem like the other side of the universe from an ant's perspective. That's the kind of image I'd use to show loneliness — a solitary ant gazing into the distance.
As a resolute atheist it's rare for me to set foot inside a church. Since my friend is very religious I agreed to accompany her to the Sunday service my parents attend every week. Just over a year ago I related in The Forgetful Poet's Tale, how I'd given a talk to the Friendship Club, where I introduced them to the talking technology I use on a daily basis. Most of the congregation know me and welcomed me, asking how I was and what my plans were for this year. They were delighted to hear about my plans to return to Swansea and were interested in my poetry; several of them have purchased copies of Dressing Up and there were a few requests that I return to Friendship Club and read a few poems for them. Hopefully there will be a slot in the Friendship Club schedule that I can seize, and maybe I can memorise the few poems I have that include religious ideas — the Religion of the Species poem which won the Algebra of Owls Readers’ Choice award, and I've got a poem that uses St Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds, plus a poem that tells of God on a drunken night out in Dublin ... maybe I'll spare them that one ;)
#Emotions #Loss #Earthquakes