Thanks to Thrawn Craws for posting this poem to their Facebook group today . I realised, after an hour of pulling my hair out, that Facebook no longer allow us to embed video’s. How annoying. So here is the video that was posted on the Thrawn Craws Facebook page. Please also click on the link to be directed to their page, check out all the creative talent they offer and give them a like.
I told him to come.
I put the key in a plant pot,
And a slice of Madeira cake
Wrapped in cling film, on a floral plate.
I said, ‘Please, help yourself,’
And left the porch light on,
And brown sugar cubes
In a silver bowl, and a sachet of coffee mate.
I said, ‘It’s going to be a cold one.’
And I stoked the fire with extra logs,
Folded the scarf I’d knitted last June
And left it on the armchair.
I said, ‘I won’t wait up.’
And I drew the curtains on a blinding blizzard,
Took photographs from the shelf,
Leaving eleven lines in the dust.
I said, ‘Perhaps he’ll come.’
And left well worn slippers by the fire,
A blanket folded in a plasic bag,
And a kiss on an old book from another time.
In the morning I said, ‘I wonder.’
As I counted the sugar, dusted the crumbs,
Then drew the winters curtains
To size eleven footprints in two inches of snow.
Can you remember the first time your work was published in print? I don’t, but I have the proof. This is a photograph of a story poem that I wrote in 1984. At the time I appear to be a compassionate twelve year old, it’s good to see that the issues that bothered me then, still concern me today. But, current affairs aside, I wonder how excited I was at seeing my words in print. I wonder if I showed the publication to all of my friends and family. I wonder if I called myself a writer?
I doubt it
I knew when I was twelve year old that I wanted to become a writer. I knew it when I left school and began working in a frozen food shop for £24.50 a week on a YTS, I even knew it when I fell into the role of retail manager and somehow survived the role for twenty years. And throughout that time, even though I spent my happiest hours writing, I was never a writer, not a real one that is. I wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote and began to see pieces of my writing appeared in magazines and newspapers. Yet when ever I introduced myself to someone, I was Eilidh, the retail manager, writing was just a hobby.
When is a writer a writer?
I began calling myself a writer half way through my undergraduate degree at Stirling University. That’s not to say I was comfortable with it. In fact, I would say it under my breath, quickly, and would try to hide my scarlet face. It felt uncomfortable, I felt like a fraud. By this time though, I had managed my way around an essay or two, I was getting decent grades and my reading had increased ten-fold. And as my confidence grew, I began to publish more. The writing itself was mediocre, the publications were small, but I was being published and more importantly – read.
I published a 42,000 word novella in 2014, (under a different name). It was a piece of work I had written many years before, and that was reflected in the writing style. Never the less, I sold over 1000 copies and made a small, very small amount of money. But I was still embarrassed to tell people that I was a writer, and even more so, published. Online was easier though, I marketed my book like hell. I went full on hard sell, talking to strangers, engaging with people who I couldn’t see, and hiding the fact that deep down inside I was terrified of the person I was becoming, the person I always wanted to be, I just wasn’t sure exactly who she was though.
In 2016, I began a Masters in Creative Writing. The course was okay, but it was the legitimacy I felt while doing the course that finally gave the confidence to say, ‘I am a writer,’ still, however, very quietly.
It was probably the year after graduating from university that I began to discover the answer to my question –When is a writer a writer? I was still working part time in the retail sector, but for a charity, and actually using my managerial skills to do some good. When I wasn’t at work, I was reading or writing, or at least thinking about writing. I began to send more and more of my work off to magazines, zines and competitions. I got plenty of rejections, but a small proportion was published and my confidence grew. I began to really enjoy my craft, I enjoyed putting new skills into practice and writing at my own pace. I felt connected to the work I was producing, passionate and I looked forward to it. I had read so many writing tips about when to write, how long I should spend writing, do I need to write daily, how do I find inspiration? I read articles on how to combat writers block, I was even told writers block doesn’t exist. And although all opinions are legitimate, they are only legitimate to the person writing them. In the end, I decided that the only advice I should listen to, is my own.
When I stopped putting pressure on myself to write a particular way, or at a particular time, or for that matter, act in a way that I thought a writer might act, I found I could just write. For me, and this is my opinion, a writer is a writer when they connect to their work, when they allow the writing to be part of them and them a part of the writing.
When I look back at the The Tramp, I see Eilidh the twelve year old writer, she is the writer I have been striving to become for all these years, connected, compassionate, self determined and confident, it just took me a while to find her again.
The weight of the world smothers you
Like a wet wool blanket
On tired bones.
And you lie there as still as death.
Your eyes; dusted in grime
Follow my reflection along the ground
As my footsteps silence the sound
Of a town laid on its side before you.
A red umbrella flicks to the side
To hide you from a pigtailed child,
While a balding builder wipes pie grease
From his mouth.
I step into your space and listen.
And like a shell pressed upon my ear
All I can hear is the sea and my heart
Beating. Beating because
I’m afraid of you.
I’m afraid if I don’t shake you
Who will wake you?
But I won’t shake you
For fear of hearing you rattle
Like a bag of bones.
I find your cup, drop a coin and say
‘Sorry man.’ Just like the last time
And I wonder,
When the first freeze frosts the leaves
Will you see sparkles
When I see dust.
This poem is dedicated to the man who died in the doorway of the old BHS in Stirling. R.I.P. Never forgotten.
I mentioned some time ago (2017), that one of my poems was selected to appear at two railway stations as part of the Renfrewshire metal health festival Scotland. A few days ago, I got along to see it displayed. I hope it moved some people, or just passed a minute while they waited at the station. A fresh batch of poems will go up in May.