Monday, December 17, 2012

Keeping going

A hillside in Mashau, Limpopo

Flicking through old pictures to make an album for my mother, who was 79 yesterday, I found one of James Berry, the wonderful Caribbean poet who used to live in Brighton. James also tutored on the first Arvon course I ever attended as a student and on the train back he gave me advice I've always remembered - writing is about stamina. Keep going, he said.

So that's what I've been doing today, against the odds, trying to find a way of writing a poem about sitting on a hillside in Venda listening to axes against trees. Writing seems to be a constant cycle of anxiety and elation, of frustration and a fleeting sense of achievement.

Perhaps the problem is, that I don't yet know what's driving the poem and poets I've been reading recently, Robin Robertson's The Wrecking Light and Anna Swir's Talking to my Body, are so clear, so focused and sure. I have enjoyed reading these books so much that I have to keep going back to them. Swir is a real find - I didn't know her work at all. She's so confident, her voice strong and original.