‘I choose fiction’ was a line from a poem I wrote this week, but later scrapped (balled and threw into the fire) as it was nowhere near good enough. It was a poem about twins – one who battles through life, working in all weathers, miserable, tired but with purpose and the other who retreats to ‘burrows underground’, cellars and prisons of his own making, choosing the fictions of imagination over human interaction and achievement. Emily Bronte is always catagorised as choosing imagination and fantasy over ‘real life’. If she did at times, I think it was because she had too much reality: the death of her mother and sisters, cruel schools, a parish where her father conducted far too many burials a week for the small number of inhabitants and the prevalance of TB. The reality of death, which we’re still so shrouded from today, was blisteringly real. In occurred in the family home – no detail would be missed by a bright child, no artifice of wards or hospice to act as a bolster. In absence of the alcohol and laudanum Branwell could indulge in, a large dose of fiction was needed. But this is also why the books of all three published Brontes are so astonishingly blunt and unveiled. When I first started writing I was always told that my poems were ‘a bit depressing’ and to ‘concentrate on the humour you have’. I have tried both. I do laugh a lot and am silly. The truth is that writing mostly writes itself, chooses its subjects and can’t be forced. The silliness doesn’t need expression in poetry because it come from happiness and the spontaneity of the moment which speaks for itself.
This weekend we went to watch Lion at the cinema. I was very impressed that, while hoards of teenage girls paraded in and out with fizzy drinks and snacks and then left before the half-way point in the film, our 9 year old was riveted. She had no problems with the subtitles and was fascincated by the depiction of India and its street homeless children. The young boy who played Saroo was excellent. The Tasmanian scenes were also much better than the average film. There really is life beyond the USA but you wouldn’t think it at the Plaza. The screen was practically deserted. I expect everyone was in Lego Versus Batman.
The BAFTAs are on tonight. I am so rooting for Ken Loach and I, Daniel Blake. Especially supporting actress Hayley Squires. If I could act, I would want to play that role. I hope Loach gets the opportunity to speak politically. The world would be safer if there were more people as brave as Ken.
I’m so looking forward to a week off at the end of next week. Everyone seems in crisis in terms of mental health, social circumstances and just life really. The worst feeling in the world is walking away from a patient’s home and feeling you haven’t helped as much as you want to, that you’ve reached impossible stumbling blocks – hospital admission not being an option, benefits agencies hounding vulnerable people, poverty, relationship breakdown. I could be there hours but the same limitations would remain. I still want that magic wand though.
I’ve been very impressed by Jackself this week in terms of new poetry collections. Very disturbing in the same way nursery rhymes and playground myths are disturbing. I’ve also subscribed to The North and found it excellent. I’ve written about 3 poems this week. Not sure if they’re good enough yet.
We’re hoping to go to London next week for a couple of days. There are some famous graves to visit, plus the importance of getting away can’t be underestimated – like the scene in Dead Poets Society: “I stand on my desk to remind myself we must constantly look at things in a different way.” I’ve got very mixed feelings about London but hope to visit only new, positive places – there’s definitely enough of them.
I actually don’t prefer fiction, as much as I escape to it. I prefer reality in all its rags and disappointments. Facing it is the only way to gain the essential understanding to write well.