Four Weeks in August Amid a Worldwide Pandemic

Photo by Elizabeth Tr. Armstrong on Pexels.com

In week one

The apple tree in the garden of the white and yellow rental house was full, but the house was empty. I walked past a dozen times, five times to the shops, four to the play park with the dogs, once to post a parcel at the post office, and twice for a look.

In week two

The apples on the apple tree in the garden of the white and yellow rental house were ripe, but not picked. I walked past the house at the crack of dawn, hovered by the garden gate, pretended to watch the bluetits flit between branches, just to glimpse at the reddest apples I had ever seen.

In week three

The apples on the apple tree in the garden of the white and yellow rental house were falling, and no-one noticed. I wanted to scoop them up, stuff my pockets and hand them out, but the streets were as empty as my pockets, so  I just watched another apple, plump and sweet, fall with a thud. A muffled sigh lay stale between my lips and layers of fabric.

In week four

There were six apples left on the apple tree, in the garden of the white and yellow rental house, the rest were rotten, scattered and bruised, pecked, and burrowed. I should have plundered one, bent the branches until the shiniest apple, cold and smooth, dipped into my claw like grip. I could have sunk my teeth into the flesh quicker than the curtains twitched in the window of the house next door.

September

The apple tree in the garden of the white and yellow rental house is finally empty, and the house is still empty, yet as I pass, a sudden flash of red amongst the green grass. A robin.

©EilidhGClark

Bringing Life to the Poem

As a poet, I feel I have to invest parts of my own identity into my work in order to build a relationship with the poem – I need to feel it tug on my sleeve.  This means that prior to writing about a particular subject I have to take an emotional journey. This might mean simply touching parts of my mind that are easy to reach, however, it often means scouring through dark and lonely emotions that I have tucked away. I find this process is an essential part of my preparation. The emotional link, for me, is the most honest way to bring the subject to life.

The uniqueness of any poem comes from the link between the poet and the poem. The truth is the soul of the poem. The truth is etched into the poems conventions. Without an emotional link, language is flat, motionless, and stale. If I were to write about a tree, any tree, the tree is lifeless unless I can create an emotional link. A link could arise if it was planted as a remembrance for someone I love, or if the tree provided shelter during my first kiss. If a leaf falls from the tree and brushes my face, it may spark a memory of a loving touch. The tree might have a knot that resembles the face of an old school teacher or smell like the time I smoked my first cigarette in the woods. The swish-swish of the branches might bring to mind a road sweeper cleaning up litter, and my anger at people’s disregard for the environment. Without an emotional connection, the tree is just an object, an image, a flat word on a page. Poetry, ‘opens a corridor between the head and heart,’ (Andrew Motion, 2012) a statement I fully agree with.

In my own work, I use truth and personal experience in addition to the poetic conventions as an art form. In discussing the making of poetry, Jamie said that ‘just as much as sound and rhythm, what makes a poem is its relationship with truth’. (Kathleen Jamie, 2012).  I believe that truth allows the poet to work more closely with form, imagery and most certainly tone.

I am greatly influenced by poets such as Carol Ann Duffy, Chris Powici, Raymond Carver and Kathleen Jamie an. Duffy’s relationship with truth is evident in ‘Stealing’:

Part of the thrill was knowing

That children would cry in the morning. Life’s tough.  (Carol Ann Duffy).

The blunt words and lack of emotion from the speaker actually give the poem an emotional feel. The tone is sombre, almost desperate.

Truth for me is found in reality, my own reality, and in experience, emotions, and a connection with the natural world. Finding the truth in the everyday, and exploring language, form the basis of my work. Therefore, the need that I have to invest parts of my own identity in poetry means building a relationship with the poem – I need to feel it tug on my sleeve.

©Eilidh G Clark

Bibliography

Duffy, Carol Ann, ‘Stealing’, in Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times, ed. by Jo Shapcott and Mathew Sweeny (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 2004)

Jamie, Kathleen, ‘Holding Fast – Truth and Change in Poetry’, in Strong Words: Modern Poets on Modern Poetry ed. by W.N. Herbert and Mathew Hollis (Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books Ltd, 2012)

Motion, Andrew, ‘Yes and No’, in Strong Words: Modern Poets on Modern Poetry, ed. by W.N. Herbert and Mathew Hollis (Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books Ltd, 2012)