I’ve always felt a turn in the air at the beginning of September. For years I wondered why I felt suddenly sad around this time (aside from the dreaded school term beginning). Then I found Larkin when I was about 15 and the sadness made more sense.
Summer is fading:
The leaves fall in ones and twos
From trees bordering
The new recreation ground…
Philip Larkin, Afternoons
Most of Larkin’s poems are ‘autumn’ poems, or ‘twilight’ poems: endings, sad light on rooftops, leaves falling, people growing old unwillingly. Reading biographical accounts afterwards, and my reaction to them, were my first lesson in ‘separating the writer from their writing’. I struggled with this concept for a long time, very naively wanting writers to be in life the people I conjured up from their art. My dissertation tutor, Dr Helen Carr, reminded me of this when I was writing about Jean Rhys – a writer adamantly opposed to biography –and her message hit home and hasn’t left.
Last weekend was Crab Fair in Egremont, which is a symbol that winter is on its way. The lurid fairground and sad organ music reminded me of childhood.
I’ve been writing a bit in the last few weeks, mostly about the past and much more autobiographically – with some poetic licence – than I have before. I’m trying to write only about what I absolutely have to write about – no frills or trimmings. I used to think that if I visited a castle, or saw a sunset over the sea, I had to capture it in words. Most of those poems have been discarded.
Thinking of Jean Rhys, I’ve always wanted to visit Dominica and felt sad when I saw the images of the aftermath of the hurricane. I thought of the letters she wrote on her first visit home in the 1930’s (she’d left around 1906) about the changes to the island and how I fell in love with it, without seeing it, through Wide Sargasso Sea. I know the latter half of the book so well: the Yorkshire stone and moors and houses with long draughty corridors. The first half remains mysterious and out of reach. I hope the island gets the all the aid it needs as quickly as possible.
I can’t always say what I think/feel/experience in blogs because of my job as much as I want to. Working, looking after child/ren and dealing with day to day stress – money (lack of), health and other things – have felt like a pretty thick mud to wade through this week. That’s what makes us human though (hello Jeremy Vine) and I think it’s good to hear that life’s no bowl of cherries, the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence (and other clichés) when you’re struggling yourself.
I loved The Rialto this month. Hannah Lowe’s series of poems on miscarriage were brave and brilliant.
This weekend has been a mixture of hiding under covers and physical activity in the garden. We had a bonfire tonight (above) to burn all the old wood and branches and a proper Sunday dinner. Now it’s raining again and I can’t hear the owl. I don’t feel tired, which is typical on a work night, and am going to search the bookshelves for Wide Sargasso Sea.