The importance of being honest

This week I’ve begun re-reading all the Jean Rhys books. I’ve also been revisiting her biographies. I know she was violently against the idea of biography and wanted to keep her vivid life and work (art) apart. I understand why. We all let ourselves down in life and try and construct out best selves in our work. Her life is so very full though -tragic, exciting. A life fully lived from literary Paris to the run-down, leaking bungalow in Cheriton Fitzpaine where she battled with Wide Sargasso Sea. When I think about my dad I have this struggle with reality and art. Undoubtedly he was a writer first, all his life – from the tiny notebooks from the 60’s to the novels later. He had the eye and the ear. He talked like a writer and he never tried to. He made trips to Little Chef seen magical. Then I think of his illness and what I saw and can’t ever forget, as much as I want to remember only the magical, utter aliveness of him well in the world. Then I realise how lucky I am because these elements of him are distilled in the books he left. He is still there, living , breathing on the page, shocking me at every turn with his unique vision of the world. There was an honesty about him, as there was about Rhys – both in life and art. I’ve learned that writing does not always have to be true to fact to be honest. Fact is important (especially in a climate of ‘fake news’), but it’s always filtered through layers of subjectivity, emotions, feelings, life experience… I hope i’ve expressed that with some clarity at least. I’m not sure I have.

I’ve written a poem about anorexia this week. I’m not anorexic, nor have I ever been or am every likely to be. The poem came out with truth in it though. I don’t think we need to live everything first hand to fully understand it. Sometimes I think that direct experience can muddy the clarity. We get so caught up in reality we can’t see how we are/how it is. I know someone who’s anorexic. She’s a beautiful young woman with everything going for her but belief in herself and the ability to feel she can have any control over her world without taking extreme measures, limiting what she puts into her body until – a walking skeleton – life is marginally more bearable. How did Shakespeare know so much I wonder? He could put himself into the place of kings, queens, jesters, the deformed, the clown, all races – there were no limits to his shape-shifting. It must have been imagintion and an astonishing ability to empathise. How does a mind like that switch off at then end of the day?

I’ve been feeling a bit better today after weeks of post-flu infections. We walked to Loweswater in the bitter cold. The moutains had snow on the tops. We looked for animal burrows, old misshapen trees amd skimmed stones across the lake. We went for tea in Cockermouth and life seemed to have a few more horizons.

I’ve been writing a bit more this week. I haven’t really written properly since early December. It was getting to me in ways I don’t even really understand. I’ve been trying to keep the idea of ‘truth’ with me at all times. I don’t want to live in a ‘post-truth’ world. I want to feel wind, rain, sadness, love, loss and all that makes you truely alive while I have the chance.




Author: kittydonnellypoet

Kitty Donnelly was born in Oxford in 1979. Her mother was born in Cumbria, of Irish origin, and her father was born in Newry, Northern Ireland. She has lived in London, Cumbria, Swansea and Chichester. She had poems published in Acumen in 2005, as well as being long and short-listed for several poetry competitions. She was also published in The Samaritan's Anthology and by The Forward Press. In 2007, she took a long break from submitting poems after having her daughter. In 2016, she has been Commended in the Southport Writer's Circle Poetry Competition, long-listed for the Canterbury University Poet of the Year 2016 and has had work accepted for publication in The Dawntreader. She currently lives in Cumbria where she works as a psychiatric nurse.

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