The following three poems are part of a sequence that explores the connection between natural phenomena and bodily affect.
i will give a proof of my zeal: one day, on tearing off some old bark, i saw two rare beetles & seized one in each hand; then i saw a third & new kind, which i could not bear to lose, so that i popped the one which i held in my right hand into my mouth. alas it ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that i was forced to spit the beetle out…
— charles dickens
knowing what will happen never stops me
when i took you in my mouth
a six-legged query poised
on the tip of my tongue
rooting in the damp
soil of each other’s forms until
your body sprang its sudden leak
those virulent colours seeping
in the morning i am swollen
my mouth becomes bank
vast atrocious trees birds breathing
i fulfil my functions like an unripe fruit
mulchy seed-skinned flotsam of potential
tulip machinery clanking
under the dirt
& yes i have been fragile
have spoken in concentric circles
photodegredation the light widening
damp wind torquing untold familiar words
bounce of water gyre
knows its own extremity is generous
jewelled piñata heart treating us all to itself
bruiseful rape-yellow pulp
& as we were settling this final fathom, i saw a wonderful thing. lying on the bottom just beneath us was some type of flatfish. even as I saw him, his two round eyes on top of his head spied us — a monster of steel — invading his silent realm. here, in an instant, was the answer that biologists had asked for the decades. could life exist in the greatest depths of the ocean? it could!
— jacques piccard
a new old thing
slimy & exquisite
breathless clenched by water
i feel girl
call it awareness:
the body’s gunky sentience each cavity
my middle ear my pink & reaching lungs
gap where a womb should be
noisy air in blood
the outer window cracked beginning to trickle
all that expectation
i let you into my skin
your flexing bones your eyes
the dark inside me
Seven Questions with an Eighth
1. Where do you write? (do you have a place that you find yourself and your writing?)
Different poems suit the vibes of different places. I’ll write in coffee shops, libraries or at my desk at home beside my trusty angle-poise, whatever the current work calls for.
2. How do you write? (into a notebook or straight onto a computer?)
Computer, always. As a poet it makes experimenting with form and structure so much easier.
3. Roughly how much time do you spend each week on creative writing related activities? (writing, editing, correspondence & submissions)
I tend to write in short, intense bursts — by the time I open my laptop, most of the poem has already been written in my head and it’s just a matter of getting the words down — so the amount of time spent actually writing is small for me. The rest — editing, corresponding and submitting — takes forever! It evens out to a couple of hours a day.
4. What time of day do you usually write?
As soon as I wake up, regardless of when that is. I need fully charged batteries!
5. What does it feel like to write?
My best writing is done when I’m unaware of myself. If at any point I start thinking about who I am, what I’m doing, or (God forbid) why I’m doing it, block sets in. I’m in a very high state of awareness; it’s almost trancelike. I’m aware of the words happening, but not much else.
6. Are there any stimuli that will usually trigger you into writing?
The stimulus that triggers non-writing is definitely routine! Emotional, physical and even geographical shake-ups all get my creative juices flowing, so if I’m struggling, the best thing I can do is to go somewhere I’ve never been and write there. Failing that, a flat white generally does the trick.
7. What are you working on now?
For the past month and a half I’ve been working on HYDRA, a collection of poetry that explores our relationship with water. So much of the planet and so much of our bodies are liquid. Each human spends the first nine months of its life as a marine creature, and until around 400 million years ago all life was aquatic. It’s been fascinating to consider what that represents to us and the role that water plays in our twenty-first century lives.
8. How has the scholarship affected your writing?
It’s given me the opportunity of spending time with some fantastic writers, and I think that affects writing more than most people realise. The poets I’ve studied with for the past year on the MA are really talented, and watching them develop poetically in the same way I’ve been developing has been a privilege. In January I was lucky enough to be invited to read at Café Writers alongside Esther Morgan, whose work I really admire, and it was an amazing experience. Being around poets always makes me want to write poetry.
For details of UEA’s Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship established by IS&T’s Kate Birch please go here.