Friday, May 08, 2009

April's Prize Poem

Taking a look back at the prompts I posted in April, they seem to reflect my own emotional state during the month more than I realised.

There's a lot in there about hope and love, explicitly and implicitly, and these have been the two things upmost in my mind since Tony, my husband, cut his hand badly at the end of March, which meant a lot of time spent in French hospitals for micro-surgery and skin-grafts and the subsequent care.

Nearly six weeks later, the worse is over and while there'll be some permanent nerve damage, he'll be able to use the hand fully in time. Given he's an artist and musician, he's relieved to know that. As I am.

So reading your poems this month has been a delight for me, not only to have a break from the reality of life here, but to read the joy and deeply felt emotion in them.

My aplogies for digressing but my contributions felt a little underweight last month and I wanted to explain why.

And now onto April's Prize Poem. The prompt in response to the Merwin poem was a difficult one, I think. Being restrained by someone else's words can feel frustrating, but both Keith Wallis and Fran Hill managed to make another poem from Merwin's words.

It was a close call, but I've chosen Fran's poem because of the astounding way she manipulated the syntax and wove her own words between Merwin's lines and created some wonderfully effective linebreaks at the same time, e.g. the strainings of/ The heart, which, for me, increases the emotional impact with its hesitance after the preposition before reading on to the next line.

There's one suggestion I'd make with regard to the close of the poem though, and that would be to cut the last two words 'to weep'. The image of silk slipping from a hand is a powerful one, and I'd prefer to let that do its work, rather than direct the reader too explicitly.

You might remember that Fran won last month's Prize too, so many congratulations again, Fran. I'll place your prize in the post next week.

Here's Fran's poem for you to enjoy again.

They know so much more now. About
My longings, though, nothing. The strainings of
The heart. We are told: ‘But the world
Is for laughter.’ Yes, but the sullen clouds
Still seem to come, one at a time,
Hanging above my bent head. I think:
One day, one year, one season, and here
Will come floating blossoms for me. After all,
It is spring once more with its birds,
And I see that the tulips stand strong. I, though,
Nesting in the holes in the walls
Of my hiddenness, do not see that
It’s morning. Finding the first time
For joy – ah! – a long, long search for
Its light. Pretending not to move
In case it wants to come silently, as
Always. Beginning, as it goes
Slipping from my touch again, like silk, to weep.

Fran Hill


charlotte s said...

Really enjoyed this version of the poem, Fran. Especially 'nesting in the holes of my hiddenness'. Thanks for this.

Interesting comments in last month's blog too about sincerity versus sentimentality. When writing, I keep coming up against things which are too painful to say, then scrapping the whole thing. Does anyone have any tips?

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Charlotte - I hope other people will add their insights too... but here's my response.

For me there's a difference in writing for myself and writing with the aim, or even background thought, that I'm going to make something out of it: a poem, a story, a memoir etc.

So, in the frst instance I write freely, focusing on the process and not an end product, and this helps me not censor myself, even if it is painful, uncomfortable, or even frightening. Perhaps the ability to do that comes with practice and time, and also a sense of trust in the creative process, that it can give order to and make sense of things that can seem unmanageable and overwhelming.

And I've come to believe that words on paper can't hurt me; they might make me cry or feel scared but I can generally deal with that.

One of the 'writing for the self' exercises I used to set while teaching at the Uni was this:

Try and create a safe environment (find a place where you feel nurtured and supported and writing tools you feel comfortable with) and, if you can, take a risk and write something you never thought you would. Everyone has their own boundaries, and you will have to decide your own. It might be a single word you've never allowed yourself to use, it might be a whole page or pages of something you never thought you could write; it might be a secret you've never told, your own or someone else's. You don't have to keep it - it's up to you what you do with the writing. Or you might prepare to do this exercise and then decide against it. But whatever happens, make notes in your writer's notebook about the process you followed, and/or your responses to the assignment. Try to withhold judgement on yourself in this exercise, whether you do it or not. Every writer has to make his/her own choices and there are no right or wrong choices.

However I also believe that every writer has to choose their own boundaries and go as far as their psyche allows. Some personal emotional territory might need to be approached with care.

charlotte s said...

Thank you, Lynn. This has helped make things much clearer for me. And I like the idea that over time, the process may become like a best friend, once the trust has built.