Documenting Britain


Ever since I was a small child I’ve always loved that vertiginous plunge into other people’s lives you get through not-quite-shut curtains and warped back garden fences. I think poetry has the capacity to do something emotionally similar. My contribution to Documenting Britain, Scavenge, will develop through poems incorporating words taken from overheard conversations, from ads in local shop windows, road signs, place names, house names, graffiti, tattoos – anything and everything that speaks the language of Britain now.

Little words of Love

February 14, 2015

Writing this post during the annual Valentine’s Day frenzy, I wanted to include a couple of poems on the theme of love.

The postcard poem here came out of two contrasting sources: Heat magazine and an exhibition catalogue for traditional samplers from the Isle of Man, where I’m based.

I’m interested in how we, particularly we women, get the rules for living our lives – in days gone by, typically from religious men; nowadays through the media. I took the photograph in Crete; it’s a reflection of an eagle in a swimming pool. I like the fact that the eagle is a symbol of freedom – but when we’re following the rules, how free are we really?

The other poem here came out of a series of community creative writing workshops I’m facilitating. A few weeks ago we played a writing game called Exquisite Corpse, a Surrealist version of Consequences in which the group writes poems collectively.

We all started with the same first line, which was taken from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, one of my favourite books. It was fascinating to see how the collective unconscious got to work – the resulting pieces were all very different, but there were strong themes running through them.

I made the poem below by taking words and phrases from all the different pieces and weaving them together to create something new, which turned out to be a kind of meditation on loss and love. Thanks to everyone in the session for the inspiration.

Things had a way of disappearing in the garden

Coins, china,
boiled sweets,

A portrait of St Peter.
A child singing.
Everything, stolen.

My heart lost
in the mist
for days at a time.

Love. Missing
for so long, when it came
it was just

strange –
a disconcerting carousel;
just some kind of

at the bottom of the garden