Sarah James

the possibilities of poetry…

Reflections/poem biography for His Wife
Hall of Clocks
“The psychologist stares; tick.
As if eyes are glass openings,
and he’s trying to lift the catch;

click…”

In contrast to the preceding poem, ‘His Wife’ is full of serious intentional attention and gaze.

The plotline is imagining what it must be like to be married to an over-worked psychologist. The conceit this is explored through is the mind resembling a clock in its inner workings and the care taken in observing and tinkering/fine-tuning these.

Conceits aren’t to every readers’ taste, and don’t seem especially popular at the moment. But this one also gave me plenty of scope for word play – such as the line about the brain’s pendulum ending in an exclamation mark before this pendulum is described as like an exclamation, its movement then stopped in a line ending with a full stop. The poem is also full of –ick, -ock sounds. But these don’t sound as regularly as you’d expect from a clock’s normally functioning tick-tock.

Meanwhile, on the narration front, as the psychologist is examining his wife’s mind, the narrator (like the wife, perhaps) is also examining the psychologist’s inner workings.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

Do you notice the –ock, -op, -ick, -its sounds as you read the poem? Do they work effectively to illustrate and enhance the contents?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

You/a fictional character are running out of time to do something important. What is it? Why does it matter? What will happen if it doesn’t get done in time? Use this as a poem/story outline. Alternatively, try imagining your/ a fictional character’s bucket list. What is on there and why? What does the list reveal about personality/lifestyle? Does it suggest a narrative plot? 

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.

Reflections/poem biography for His Wife
Hall of Clocks
“The psychologist stares; tick.
As if eyes are glass openings,
and he’s trying to lift the catch;

click…”

In contrast to the preceding poem, ‘His Wife’ is full of serious intentional attention and gaze.

The plotline is imagining what it must be like to be married to an over-worked psychologist. The conceit this is explored through is the mind resembling a clock in its inner workings and the care taken in observing and tinkering/fine-tuning these.

Conceits aren’t to every readers’ taste, and don’t seem especially popular at the moment. But this one also gave me plenty of scope for word play – such as the line about the brain’s pendulum ending in an exclamation mark before this pendulum is described as like an exclamation, its movement then stopped in a line ending with a full stop. The poem is also full of –ick, -ock sounds. But these don’t sound as regularly as you’d expect from a clock’s normally functioning tick-tock.

Meanwhile, on the narration front, as the psychologist is examining his wife’s mind, the narrator (like the wife, perhaps) is also examining the psychologist’s inner workings.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

Do you notice the –ock, -op, -ick, -its sounds as you read the poem? Do they work effectively to illustrate and enhance the contents?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

You/a fictional character are running out of time to do something important. What is it? Why does it matter? What will happen if it doesn’t get done in time? Use this as a poem/story outline. Alternatively, try imagining your/ a fictional character’s bucket list. What is on there and why? What does the list reveal about personality/lifestyle? Does it suggest a narrative plot? 

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.

Reflections/poem biography for In the Ointment

In the ointment
“…Always a fly,
the smallest of things,
this full stop with wings”

This poem was directly inspired by a Verse Kraken prompt and call-out for pieces related to The Tantalizing Fly, featuring Max Fleischer’ silent cartoon character Koko the Clown.

My thoughts flew from one film/literary fly to another with as much wordplay as possible in between. This is not a poem that wants or needs to be taken too seriously, more one to be enjoyed for the momentary buzz and dance of language.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

What kind of poem is this? Comic linguistic word play? Whimsy? Or are there more serious observations about language and life underlying it?

Writing/Inspiration Prompts

1) Take a punctuation mark. Think of real things that resemble it in some way. Can these be combined to construct a narrative, create a humorous poem or make a point?
2) Take an existing poem or story that you’ve written which isn’t quite working. Choose one type of punctuation mark in it. Try re-writing the entire poem/story using only that one type of punctuation mark. Alternatively, re-draft the whole piece without using that type of punctuation mark in it at all.

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.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mums and children – of whatever age!

March, Mother’s Day and my writing life – given the feminist slants to my new poetry pamphlet How to Grow Matches published by Against The Grain Press later this month, it feels a good day to talk about some of the inspiration and background to the collection.

How to Grow Matches front coverThe title poem ‘How to Grow Matches’ was first published by Magma for their revolution-themed issue in June 2016. As with the rest of the poems, it’s about the expectations society can place on women. But the pamphlet also touches on potential female role models and ideals, women in myth/storytelling, and aspects of women’s lives, influence and prejudice faced as mothers, daughters and mistresses. This is not to mention all the advice women can get given…

That’s a very rough and generalised summing up of the pamphlet. What I really want to do here now is pay tribute to my mum – a wonderful woman who’s always inspired me (as has my dad too!). She is one of the main driving forces behind the pamphlet, along with my grandmothers and all the generations of women before me who have had so much to fight against in terms of women’s rights and the kind of lives open to them. Alongside this too, my concerns for future generations. The writing was also focussed by an awareness of my individual responsibility within this for shaping the world and society.

How to Grow Matches back cover

LaunchPlusGuest_Page_1

LaunchPlusGuest_Page_2

How to Grow Matches London launch 2

One thing I’ve already been very touched by is the generous response of those who’ve read the pamphlet, including the wonderful cover endorsements from Luke Kennard and Gill McEvoy.

How to Grow Matches is available to pre-order now from the Against The Grain Press shop here! I’m also absolutely delighted to have the full line-up for the London launch – below. It’s great to be able to read with such fabulous female writers!!! Against The Grain Press have also set up an events page on Facebook here.

 
 
 
 

OTHER POETRY NEWS

On the subject of peace…this is from the Nottingham Peacebuilders anthology Small Acts of Kindness. It’s lovely to think of the postcardsand poems circulating like smiles at Nottingham Castle for this 2018 event.

Nature and environmental concern are also of growing importance in my writing and I’m delighted to have ‘A Planet Where’ published on the beautiful and important Words for the Wild (February 2018).

Also, ‘Our Street’ published in London Grip, spring 2018.

And ‘The Nowhere Shed’ published in The High Window – a place of loneliness, yes, but also nature, recuperation and the rain’s mantra.

I’m very pleased to have an article and poem set for publication in the April issue (issue 12, April 5) of Breathe. ‘Tea, Poetry and Peace’ covers mindfulness, inspiration and the potential healing powers of poetry, along with a short poem from me written specially for Breathe. I love this magazine, so it’s a real pleasure to have a piece in this issue. Magazine subscriptions are available on the website, but individual copies can also be found in various shops. Locally to me in Droitwich, I think this includes WHSmith, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and other petrol stations and newsagent outlets.

V. PRESS NEWS

There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes at V. Press recently, so lots to come over the next few weeks. Meantime, I’ve just set our submission window dates for this year. Advance notice and more about these can be found here.

EVENTS NEWS

Saturday, 31 March – Poetry Cafe, London – Launch of How to Grow Matches (Against The Grain Press)

Sarah will be reading from How to Grow Matches – a pamphlet inspired by strong women, the search for and conflicting female role models and the pressures women face in modern society. With guest readers: Linda Black, Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire.

6.30pm for a 7pm start at Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX.

Saturday, 19 May – Park’s Cafe, Droitwich – How to Grow Matches – A Live Lit Celebration

A launch that’s more like a celebration – for How to Grow Matches (poetry) LINK IN, hopefully Always Another Twist (novella) and spoken word, strong women and fabulous writers generally. More details on this to be revealed in April – featuring guest poets, an open mic with prizes and more!

Time & venue: 7-9.30pm, Park’s Cafe, 4 Victoria Square, Droitwich WR9 8DS

Saturday, 28 April – Mantle Lane Press Spring Showcase at Birmingham Literature Festival Spring 2018

Based in Coalville, Mantle Lane Press is the publishing arm of Mantle Arts, specialising in fiction and factual historical books, usually with a Midlands connection. As part of this Spring Showcase event, editor Matthew Pegg will introduce us to Mantle Lane’s new and upcoming publications including The Music Maker by Liz Kershaw and Always Another Twist by Sarah Leavesley. We will hear extracts from seven Mantle Lane writers – Sue Barsby, Jennifer McLean, Liz Kershaw, Mary Williams, Nick Fogg, Sarah Leavesley and Tim Franks.

Venue: The DOOR, Birmingham REP
Tickets: £6 / £4.80 (concs)
Information and tickets here

Sunday, 22 July 2018 – V. Press showcase at this year’s Flash Fiction Festival at Trinity College, Bristol

For more information and to book tickets for the weekend-long festival, please visit the website here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018 – guest poet at Poetry Cafe Refreshed, Cheltenham

The evening at Smokey Joe’s, 16 Bennington St, Cheltenham, GL50 4ED runs 7pm – 9pm, and also includes open mic slots.

LOVE TO TALK/READ/WRITE

Whether it’s reading or writing, I love words. I also chatting poetry, sharing my work and talking to other readers and writers. So do drop me an email (lifeislikeacherrytreeAT yeahooDOT com), if you’d like me to come along and talk literature, discuss writing or share my work. And likewise written interviews, blogposts on aspects of reading,writing and publishing. Or podcasts, or film, or anything I’ve not even thought of!

Reflections/poem biography for Re. Composition
P1160355boost and crop ant smaller“Light shifts. I see a French knot,
legs unpicking silk stitches,”

This poem about the perfectness of a small ant was directly inspired by a Magma submissions call for poems about beauty. It is about an ant, but also the nature of beauty itself and what the arts consider beauty.

Based on a real instant in my life, I no longer have the photo that inspired it. (The picture wasn’t a prize-winner but both the poppy and ant were striking.) As it’s not a moment that I’ve ever re-created in any of my later photos, it exists now only in this poem.

However, the pictures here maybe capture an essence of what it is to focus in almost microscopic detail on small creatures easily overlooked or dismissed.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

How do you think/feel/react to the jagged mix of long and short lines? Why?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Remember/Imagine either an attempt at something that fails or when a big plan goes wrong. What happens? How do you/ your fictional character(s) deal with it? What unexpected good things might result from this?

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.

Reflections/poem biography for White
frost landscapesmaller

“It clutches ghosts while we sleep,
brittles grass, fragments paths,
corpses leaves.”

In contrast to its name, ‘White’ was written as a poem about the darkness of my winter mood. Concentrating at surface level on the effects of a frost, it is also about how depression distorts everything – how I see the world sometimes changes overnight.

Over the years, my depressions have taken different forms. Depression, like more physically manifested illnesses such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, seems to be classified more by a wide range of different symptoms than anything that may or may not be in common as a cause. It is a wide umbrella, under the brim of which I have had bouts of extreme anguish, agitation, emotional pain…. At other times, more numbness, tiredness and lethargy.

None of this is pleasant, though I’ve always been lucky enough to still function and carry on regardless. But, I have come to wonder if the latter type of depression is also necessary, my body’s way perhaps of telling me that I am working too hard and need to take a step back. It is a delicate line to balance between enforced recuperation of energy and slipping into utter pointlessness. But, if I heed the signs and take that step back soon enough, it does give me space to see the light kicked up from weary trainers and then help my body to rebuild some verve.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

How far through the poem do you get before you realise what ‘it’ might be? What are the effects of not stating this directly at the start but instead creating a delayed revelation through small hints?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Imagine overnight something happens to you/a fictional character while you’re sleeping. Or that something happens to the world around you/your fictional character. What do you wake to? How do you know that something is different? What happens next?

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.

How to Grow Matches London launch 1

How to Grow Matches London launch 2

HOW TO GROW MATCHES & ALWAYS ANOTHER TWIST

I’m very excited that my poetry pamphlet How to Grow Matches with Against The Grain Press went to the printers this past week. I’ve just had a flyer from the Against The Grain Press editors for the launch event they’re organising at the Poetry Cafe on March 31. More details on this to be revealed shortly, but the immediate where and when and sample poem in the flyer below.

I’ll also be setting up a website page here for the pamphlet, including the lovely endorsements from Luke Kennard and Gill McEvoy, and will be organising my own local launch event later in the year. Meantime, the pamphlet is available to pre-order from Against The Grain Press shop here!!!

And my sequel novella to Kaleidoscope, Always Another Twist (Mantle Lane Press), is near proof stage now and I hope to have more news on that to share soon too…

POETRY NEWS

‘when it rains…’ specially commended in the Oriel Davies Gallery Open Writing Competition 2017.

‘All the women left’ (a poem from my forthcoming pamphlet How to Grow Matches) published on Atrium in Jan 2018;

Poetryfilm version of ‘Cumulus’ featured on the Cloud Appreciation Society website.

Publication of ‘Unhexing’, which was commissioned for the Still Born project and written in response to artist Adinda van ’t Klooster’s stunning artwork ‘Frozen’. The poem is one of eight commissioned for Adinda van t’ Klooster’s new book Still Born, which combines a personal selection of her artwork alongside responses by eight poets, her own narrative, and text by stillbirth specialist and obstetrician Alexander Heazell of Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre at the University of Manchester. (The book is launched at Northern Print, Stepney Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2NP on 22 March from 6pm – 8pm. More about this here.)

Two poems due out in A Restricted View From Under the Hedge(Hedgehog Press) ‘Zen and the Art of Cycle Maintenance in Issue #1 (March) and ‘Hedgehog Kind’ in Issue #2 (June).

‘A Planet Where’ accepted for Words for the Wild online.

I’m delighted to have been paired with U.S. poet Susan Roney-O’Brien for a transatlantic project between Worcester, U.K. and Worcester, Massachusetts. The ‘Tale of Two Cities’ project organised by Worcestershire poet laureate Nina Lewis involved sending each other a poem and then writing a response to the other’s emailed poem. Poems from the project are to be featured in a Contour Magazine special edition in April 2018.

Eight poems scheduled for a six-poet Arachne Press anthology in September 2018.

FICTION NEWS

I’m delighted to have fiction published/forthcoming at:

‘Mistletoe & Marriage’ on Flash Fiction Magazine in Feb 2018.

‘No False Pretences’ (flash) on Fictive Dream in Feb 2018.

SarahP1010159boost 4 in a circle hrizontal with middle pylons too scaled down & more transparent in middle

 
‘Collecting Pylons’ (flash) scheduled for Spelk on April 20.

‘The Last Red Cherry’ (short fiction cli-fi) accepted for Cabinet of Heed (sci-fi issue).

Five pieces of short/flash fiction scheduled for an Arachne Press fiction anthology by five writers in September 2018;

EVENTS

Wednesday, 17 October 2018 – guest poet at Poetry Cafe Refreshed, Cheltenham

The evening at Smokey Joe’s, 16 Bennington St, Cheltenham, GL50 4ED runs 7pm – 9pm, and also includes open mic slots.

I have various other events coming up on the flash fiction and poetry fronts, as well as launches for my Against The Grain Press pamphlet How to Grow Matches and my new novella Always Another Twist (Mantle Lane Press). So, watch this space as they say…

Meantime, if anyone’s interested in the three-poet festival reading ‘An Unconventional History of Maidenhood, Mothering and Mistresses’, more information about the reading and booking us for a festival spoken word night or bookshop reading can be found here: An Unconventional History of Maidenhood, Mothering & Mistresses – Marketing Pack 2018.

OTHER GREAT NEWS

At the end of last year, I was delighted to be asked by Roz Goddard to write an endorsement for her wonderful pamphlet ‘Spill’ out now with Flarestack Poets.

It was great to hear Roz read from this at the recent Verve Poetry Festival in Birmingham as part of Jane Commane’s fabulous launch for her collection Assembly Lines. Two stunning poetry titles that I’d thoroughly recommend!

Reflections/poem biography for Meditation on/with/for a Buzz
Meditation on with for 3 smaller

“That winter I hang with the bees
above hibernation and frost.”

For me, this poem is about the almost impossible task of concentrating solely on the senses. With every sound, smell, taste, sensation, sooner or later thoughts follow.

The types of meditation I have tried either concentrate on the senses or on repeating a mantra as a focus. When the thoughts come, I try to just observe them and let them go, but this letting go can only happen once I become aware that I am already in the grip of thoughts or imagination…by which stage I might be half-way to the moon, planning the weekly shop or worrying about bills.

Outside of meditation itself, come thoughts about thoughts, these thoughts framed in language. Separating experience from language is hard, even when focussing directly and with as much concentration as possible on the senses. Set against this, the irony that if I examine any word closely enough, it falls to pieces in some way.

I don’t want to even try to paraphrase the work of linguists like Ferdinand de Saussure, simply ask how alike is the word ‘apple’ to things we experience as an ‘apple’? The word itself has no taste, no colour…yet hear someone use the word and I’m able to tap into memories of a certain tang and texture on my tongue. At very least, I have some concept of what they are talking about. Or I think I have. But what is the precise essence of appleness in all the different varieties – Cox, Pippin, Pink Lady – that we might use the word ‘apple’ for?

Thoughts and questions could chase each other round and round for days. Language is a representation, not the actual thing. There is always an arbitrary element to it. Or, as Shakespeare put it in the often paraphrased lines from Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose | By any other name would smell as sweet.”

As for the buzz, well, meditation can bring me a great feeling of inner peace, light and clarity. But, by tuning into the senses and things around me, I can also come away from meditation feeling suddenly more awake and alert – almost buzzing, though not in quite such an overly energetic or noisy way.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Points

1) How easy is it to follow precisely what this poem is describing? Does any potential confusion help to actively demonstrate the arbitrariness of words?

2) If you read this aloud – feeling the sounds in your mouth and on the tongue, as well as the ear – do any of the words start to feel like physical objects in their own right rather than merely noise/symbols in a system (if language)? How and in what way?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Focus first on an object. Then focus on the word that you’d use for that object. Try saying the word aloud, again and again and again. Does the word change the more you say it? What, if any, actual direct similarities are there between the object and the word for that object? Imagine this word was the word for an entirely different object – perhaps that feels more suited/similar in some way to the word. What kind of journey/nightmare/experiment/transformation would be needed to turn the first object into this second object? Is there a poem or story in these observations? Or in the possible reasons behind attempting such a change? (For an example of an existing fictional transformation, consider the pumpkin that becomes Cinderella’s coach.)

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.

Reflections/poem biography for Some Prayer

Every Small Grain smaller

“Forget gravity, forget north –
this force is in all directions.”

With depression, I’ve found that there are many cruel months, many hard days. But focussing on the senses and paying attention to the small, very real details of life can help. This kind of mindfulness tends to work best for me when applied to observing things in nature. Even in its changing seasons, there is something constant and reassuring about how the natural world continues no matter what.

The notion of osmosis here ties back into viewing the world as one whole made of many (moving) parts, including me. Also the sense of going with the flow, ‘que sera sera’ (whatever will be, will be). For me, there is a sense of ease in accepting the small part that personal pain plays in a much bigger picture. Most things have silver linings or work out in some way in the end, so long as I allow myself to see the good as well as the bad.

One of the things I try to remember with writing is that the joy is in creation and crafting. Whenever I get a rejection, a piece doesn’t work out as well as I thought, or I feel low about the publicity and promotion side of things (not an introvert’s favourite part of writing for publication), I can dwell on it and feel bad. (This happens and I do feel rubbish.) Or I can throw myself back into writing – either editing the rejected piece to create something even stronger or working on a completely new and different idea.

Publication, performance and prizes can give a much-needed outside perspective. This is particularly valuable to me in an anonymous setting where my work stands on its own right, separated from me, uninfluenced by networking or friendships. But, at the same time, even these are perspectives. One of the hardest things for me on my creative masters course was accepting that there really is no hard and fast this-is-good/bad line. Reaction to art isn’t a science, there is no ph. test. But this subjective aspect of creative appreciation also creates space for a great range.

Art involves an implied relationship or communication between creator and viewer/audience, so there would be no point at all in writing for publication if I wasn’t interested in connecting. But, as an introvert, a lot of the paraphernalia that surrounds publication tends to take energy. It is returning to creation itself, the writing, the crafting that gives me pep. I’ve come to realise that balancing these two differing aspects, along with life’s other energy demands, is very important for me.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

What emotions and sensations does this poem evoke? Which particular words invite an emotional response rather that just giving a basic relatively factual description?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

What everyday activities or objects have a prayerlike quality for you? Where do you/an imaginary character derive energy and inspiration? These might be things that are part of your own daily routine, rituals you’ve observed in others or an imaginary character’s habits. What happens if something interrupts or changes these?

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.

Reflections/poem biography for Transplanted
transplantedsmaller

“From these ‘ghost’ chambers
hollowed into pig and rat hearts,”

‘Transplanted’ was inspired by a newspaper article about scientists researching how to grow human hearts from stem cells. Or, at least, I think that’s what they were doing. It was a few years ago and I can’t remember the precise article, or be sure that I ever fully understood the experiments, even in a simplified news story.

I am very much in awe of science’s miracles, for the most part without question. Like it or not, as a diabetic, I am only alive today because of past medical research and invention. But human history does seem to have a structure whereby solving a problem creates a different one to be faced later. Perhaps this is inevitable, and is fine as long as there is always another solution. I do believe it’s important though to think out what we’re doing as fully as we can before unleashing a new miracle that may potentially create a new problem. When I follow this kind of line of thought, I have a tendency to link back to faith/lack of faith and the idea of the tree of knowledge.

Like the animal hearts, this poem was very much hollowed out from its original drafts until it found this relatively spare, repetition-with-a-difference structure. I hope that the ‘cruelly’ of the final line will also put readers in mind of the opening line to T.S Eliot’s The Waste Land: “April is the cruellest month…”

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

What do the italicised repetition with a difference lines bring to this poem?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Imagine you are a scientist growing something in a petri dish. What are you growing and why? How do you look after and protect it? What sacrifices might be needed to ensure its survival? What risks are involved for you? And for the wider world?

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.

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