I am two people (at least).
Poets are shy creatures, lurking in secret places like crabs under the rocks. It takes us years to write a single poem sometimes. I weigh every word, edit, re-draft before I submit for publication. A blog’s different. You write something and off it goes into the world.
Some poets are also party animals. I’ve been a communicator ever since I can remember. I talk to everyone. I teach. I give readings. I recently co-compèred an International Women’s Day cabaret in a lamé dress and silly hat.
An odd balance this private and public thing. Writing is strictly private. I’ve always marvelled at artists who let you watch them sculpting or making some exquisite piece of pottery or jewellry. Noooooo! As the Fabrica animateur I feel exposed, like I’m in a glass-house – a Sea-Life Centre? (Actually I love our Brighton Sea-Life Centre, seahorses, little crabs, turtles…)
Friends have given up asking me what I’m doing in the residency, now they want to know what I’m going to do with the responses to the questions on my blog. So I have to think of something Very Quickly. I speak to Liz, one of Fabrica’s co-directors. She says it’s about me having the space to think and reflect as an artist. She forbids me to rush or deliver a product. That makes me want to cry.
(There’s a Polish children’s rhyme about Samochwała, a girl (yes) who boasts. It doesn’t end well for her. You must never boast. And the flip side is the artist’s inferiority complex – why would anyone want to know about my artistic process?)
The Otolith Group said they wanted to avoid all the usual clichés about the sea when they made their film essay for Fabrica. I am still all at sea. Drowning in clichés. That’s an inevitable part of the process I know from experience. But do you tell people about that? Process, sshmocess!
Friendy coincidences are at hand. Lee Hardwood shows me a book of Ruth Stones’ poetry. It just happens to contain a poem called Where I Come From which starts:
My father put me in my mother/but he didn’t pick me out.
Iztok Osojnik emails from Ljubljana with papers from an European writers conference in Warsaw 2008 on crossing borders.
Jackie Wills and I have found whole books called Purpose of Your Visit including another friend’s, River Wolton’s, collection.
Robert Hamberger reminds me of the late Adrienne Rich’s poem Prospective Immigrants Please Note which starts:
Either you will go through this door/or you will not go through.
If you go through/there is always the risk
of remembering your name.
And a student at Middlesex University interviewing me for a poetry project asks again about my process & why I started writing, so I say something about the sheer delight of making a mark, on paper initially. As I said, communication comes naturally to me. And poetry/art – it’s all about communication, right? Or is it? To be continued…