This trail of fingerprints is simply browsing.
Palm pressed to the hollow of your spine
before you step out of the moment,
leave this touch behind you in that second
where electric ran your length
and cracked between your ribs
as something begins burning.
I’ve combined by love of sketching and poetry to make some poem postcards for ‘The Muse Spits Blood’. They turned out rather nicely, so I think I might have to make some more postcards for the other quadrilles I have written over the past few years.
Writers often take inspiration from real life. A lot of my poetry draws on points, and people from history, as well as members of my own family. Some of those poems can be incredibly personal, not only the ones specifically about myself. I’ve written about my mother shaving her legs, the death of certain family members, friendships breaking down, and assault. I’m very lucky when it comes to those close to me, as they don’t take issue with me mining my life (and in turn their own) for inspiration. However, it still raises the question of how personal is too personal, and at what point (if at any point) does a poet cross the line about what they should or shouldn’t write about?
There’s a piece of writing advice, “write what you know”, which has been taken further in recent years to ‘don’t write outside your own lived experience’. There are (of course) exceptions when it comes to fiction, fantasy being a clear example. Writing what you know becomes redundant in the sense that none of us knows how magic works, or what goes on in a world carried about by a great, cosmic turtle. Fantasy, and pushing the boundaries of the known go hand in hand, but there is a difference between creating a detailed, anatomical description for the new race of gnomes you’ve invented, and writing a novel from the perspective of a person who has lived a life utterly removed from your own. For the sake of this post, I will not be going into my thoughts on the issues regarding writing in the voice of a different race/genre/class, that isn’t the post I set out to write. What I want to talk about is weighing up how to use your own experiences in poetry, and how there is room to stretch a bit beyond those experiences when the poem calls for it.
Today is the first day we have risked the washing line. The sheets go out first, pale faced in the morning brightness, skirts scattering about wind born legs. The sweaters are more resilient to such weather, they slouch from their pegs warming slowly arms raised like they are reaching to pin themselves in place. Caught by their knees, dresses fold over hang like school children from trees laughter in their fluttering. The garden becomes a gathering, loud in their wet chatter. Today is the first day we have risked a washing line, hope goes out first.
You come in wearing the morning’s work about your hands, and deep in the creases of your eyes. Mud shucked in a brittle heap you leave your boots at the door, shed a pelt of polyurethane its pockets of tags and split ended string. Accept a breakfast well past your waking, to watch your daughters rise sleep stained and stretching.
These gums are splinter strewn with pencil shards from musing on ideas, chewing the fat, picking bones from the meat of a thought until it sits on the page just right stripped to sinew, muscles drawn tight pure power in a few dangerous words.