I’m lucky enough to have two poems on public display at the moment. Both of them were developed during workshops run by Pascale Petit. If you get the chance to work with her, do: as a poet, artist and teacher, she’s adept at unlocking the imagination, using stimuli and research from a wide range of sources and – as you might expect of someone who makes art as well as poems, developing sensory awareness. Here I am, standing delightedly next to Dorothea Tanning’s ‘Some Roses and Their Phantoms’ at Tate Modern.
And here’s the poem, which can also be found in my first pamphlet, Relinquish(2007), from Arrowhead Press. That pamphlet, and the way I wrote then, seems a long time ago – what is it with that oracular tone?!
The poem has a sister, carved into a paving slab at Walthamstow Central Station. That’s Pascale’s doing again: she was commissioned to work with residents of Waltham Forest to develop creative work that was rooted in the environment around their homes and the local area. You might think the poems are all suburban sprawl and nail bars – but Walthamstow also has a surprising amount of green, not least the marshes.
Looking at ‘Sleeper’ now, I think it could do with being broken up into couplets. Why didn’t I think of it at the time, since it’s about train tracks? And it feels crammed, too: some paring back, and letting a bit of space into the text would’ve been good. But I’m pleased that ‘The Rose to Her Phantoms’ on the South Bank has her sister in north east London. I tried to echo the earlier poem by using similar constructions and vocabulary, so that, like sisters, both are at once their own selves and recognizably similar. I love the fact that I can visit them any time I want. There they are; tangible records of my earlier work.
If I had the chance to write a poem for a paving slab now, I’m not sure what it would look like, but I know it wouldn’t look like this. It wouldn’t use the ‘I’ so emphatically for a start. So there it is – there they are, the sisters – irrefutable reminders that I am making progress, I am developing as a writer. And on that note, back to the PhD. September looms….