Reflections/poem biography for Nomadic

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“Dad’s breath shrinks and expands
the room behind me.”

It feels almost tautology to say that my dad has had a great influence on my life. We haven’t always seen eye to eye – what family doesn’t have its discordances? – but his opinion has always been important to me.

At the time of writing this poem (and still now), my parents live on the Gloucestershire-Wales border. This house wasn’t where I was brought up, but is a converted barn on family farmland. It carries the weight of generations. Every visit to see my parents is not just in some way like returning to my childhood, but like returning to my father’s childhood and the family history before that.

When I am there, various childhood ‘me’s seem to rub awkwardly against the adult ‘me’. Working out how I fit into my family, and the wider world, is a constant state of wondering. And also, wandering, though I’m not sure if the process of firming up identity is helped or made harder by having lived in three different places when I was a child, then two university towns and abroad as a student, and Burton, Lichfield, Bromsgrove and Droitwich after that.

Although brought up in the countryside near Monmouth, my dad went to college in London. Meanwhile, my mum is a Londoner who went to University of Wales, Cardiff. Maybe moving around is in the genes, maybe it’s just part of being human. I guess in some sense, we are all nomads when it comes to life, resting here and there as we’re passing through.

When I feel down, depressed or unsure of myself – in terms of poetry or life more generally – returning to words on paper, the art of creation and the crafting of that creation often helps. But sometimes there are no words, particularly in a numbing period of depression. Then, I have to listen to the silence instead and remind myself that there is always some sound. Also, that the words do come back eventually. Patience and waiting are games I’ve had to live with.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Points

1) Does this poem actually answer the narrator’s need to work out their “sense of my place in this”? If so, how? If not, why not?

2) Although there isn’t a single question in this poem, arguably it revolves around a sense of questioning, or unvoiced questions. What different effects might be created by the different techniques of direct questions, rhetorical questions, questionless answers (statements which imply an unvoiced question that they are responding to) and withheld background details (that evoke questions in the reader’s mind which may or may not be in the narrator’s mind)?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Take a place you know well and that is important to you, or important to someone who is important to you. What signs (visible or in memory) of your/their presence does the place have? How different would the place feel without these? Will any of this be obvious to future generations? Use this as the starting point for a poem or story.

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.