Autumn Leaves

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.

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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