Reflections/poem biography for Shells

shells 2 smaller

“Now he is hunched emptiness,
face buried in their bed.”

Sometimes, when I’m adopting an unfamiliar character’s perspective in a poem, I will use the first person to help me get close to that experience. Likewise, when I am dealing with things that are very personal, I may use the third person to distance me and provide some objectivity. The ‘sometimes’ is very important here, as it would be a mistake to think every ‘she’ in my poems is me, or vice versa.

‘Shells’ is very much inspired though by trying to look at myself from the outside, when suffering with depression. As I had started considering myself from others’ viewpoints, it seemed important to also consider the effects my depression might have on people around me. I can’t begin to understand how hard the worst times must be for my husband, though he is always so strong.

The practice of putting on a bright face while suffering inside my shell is partly a coping mechanism – habits give life a structure when all other structure seems lost. Paradoxically though, there is a freedom too in letting impressions, feelings, life flow around me without trying to capture them.

A shell is fixed by its own rigid shape if not its contents. Water’s fluidity is dictated mainly by the forces applied to it and the shape of the space left open to it. When I’m with people I trust, there is safety and relief in letting negative emotions flow. Also, a sense that there is still something of me there, albeit very hard to hold still in one fixed state.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

Is this more a narrative sequence, a sequence based on contrasts like brittle fixedness and soft fluidity, a conceit…? If you feel it has various different elements, which is strongest overall? Do the different parts of the sequence perform distinctly different functions? How do these parts work within the whole?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Take an existing poem or short story you’ve written. Keep one word from each line/sentence/paragraph. Let these words work as the shell for a new poem/story. Now fill in the rest. (If you can, give yourself permission to just follow the flow of thoughts and inspiration as they arise. If you’d like extra structure, try a theme such as the sea/beach/holidays/water.)

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.