Monday, September 15, 2008

I've been writing about a forest the way I normally write about the sea. I thought writing had left me but I'd started a piece before the summer holidays and woke up one morning understanding how I could go back to it. I cannibalised other poems, bits from my notebook and shaped what I'd already written. I felt as if I was hammering metal.

It's a piece based on 20 prints by Jane Fordham, whose work is on the cover of Commandments. Jane showed me the prints, I wrote and showed her some words, changed them and then Jane decided on an order for her images, I wrote again and finally decided I needed an underlying narrative, but not an obvious one, that would bind 20 self-contained three line poems.

A turning point in the process was realising that another poem I wrote while I was working on the prints, a poem I thought was nothing to do with Jane's work, could do some of that binding I needed. Another turning point was showing a rough early draft to some women poets I meet with every month, who liked the very spartan bits and who suggested it could do with a regular form.

It is an amazing challenge working like this. It's an exchange as well as an opening up. It's like someone describing a view and pointing out all the stuff I might have missed. Sharing the excitement of making something new, though, also seems to extend the pleasure. It certainly makes up for the washing machine breaking down on Sunday.