|I am particularly concerned with how to achieve a balance between the public and personal poem; how to find the lyric voice in the face of trauma, violence and catastrophic historical events; how to speak the unspeakable; how to avoid polemic and sentimentality when writing about big issues; how to write in a way that invites empathy; how to change hearts as well as minds through the medium of poetry.
There is nothing like the thrill I feel when, having stepped into a poem, lived with it, carried it around with me, it starts to unfold, finds where it wants to go. But that process doesn’t happen by magic. There is the diligence of waiting, watching, researching, crafting, editing and the constant exploration of language in the service of the poem, all leading up to the moment when I know it is done.
It is my experience that if there is falsehood, lack of authenticity in a poem, then the poem doesn’t work. Something jars, something in the poem tells me to look at it again and find the truth. When I find the truth it helps the craft of the poem or sometimes in the recrafting of it, I find the truth.
L’INCONNUE DE LA SEINE
There was a swell on the surface of the Seine that day
making faces at me. So I blew kisses at an open mouth
and whispered, “Drown me peaceful, drown me slow.”
I wanted the time, you see, to float undead through Paris.
I could have choked on a glass of milk as a child
and missed this opportunity. Don’t call it suicide
as if it’s a tragedy. This was the first time in my life
I had been in control of anything. Imagine, not dying
but dissolving, becoming a river. Was I afraid?
Not of the fall. I was afraid of the Water Police,
the way they walk along the river, any one of them
could have seen me floating, but nightfall saved me.
Before the river had me, I had one last look at the stars
“Just look at you,” I said, “already dead and still shining.”
Published in ‘The Heart of It’, Peepal Tree Press