Li Mills runs a choir in Brighton, Jam Tarts. I used to belong but I don't like to be flakey and after a run of non-attendance because of different domestic complications, I asked her to fill my place. I miss it and may be able to get myself back in one day, but in the meantime, Li and I are meeting up to write songs. She has a couple of different song writing musician partners and I've been invited into this loose co-operative to help with the words.
Last night I was round at her place with a bottle of 10 year old Great Wall Chinese red wine! The song we were attempting lyrics for was upbeat and bouncy. It was fun to insinuate the odd edgy lyric, to subvert the good humour. I never wrote lyrics when I played at playing bass in a band. Lyrics were written by the guitarist, my then boyfriend, who was obsessed with Tom Waits. I find it hard to listen to Tom Waits without thinking of him, actually, and a long drive in my old Morris traveller through the fens, when we were summoning up the courage to kiss.
Writing these lyrics is a bit like playing a game. What do we want to say here? Where does the stress fall? How much can you stretch a word? Is this a conversation? Who's talking, who is the singer talking to? When I write poetry, the only landscape is my own, that in my head and how familiar it feels sometimes. I feel as if I go back to the same places endlessly, obsessively looking for something else to pull out of them or inspect within them.
Writing with Li, I am questioned, put on the spot and have to see differently, make words fit into the tunes she's sung with blank vowels and consonants over the tracks someone else has composed. And it fits perfectly into my mood, which is to be stretched. The other project, an artist book with Jane, is also progressing. I'm refining, cutting, pruning the lines I've come up with in response to her amazing prints. The big question is narrative. Is there enough of one embedded in the connections I've made between words?
What started me off on this track, though, was an e mail from a friend I haven't heard from for ages. For some reason it began a trail of thought about domesticity and how little it's valued in the arts. As we were listening to our tracks without words, though, Li played me a Kate Bush song, Washing Machine.
I'm going to blast it from the CD player, unapologetically.