I wanted to take part in this last year – but by the time I realised it was happening, half of the 16 days had gone. It seemed important to start at the beginning, to take part all the way through.
In my first collection The Art of Falling there is a sequence in the middle of the book ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’ which is centered around/explores an experience of domestic violence.
I thought that I was putting this sequence at the heart of the collection, right in the middle. But from another angle, maybe I was hiding it.
A strange/almost coincidence that there are 17 poems in the sequence – it almost/nearly fits into the 16 days.
But not quite. The poems spill out of the container they should have fitted into. The experience spills out of the year that it happened in and touches everything that comes after.
When I think back to the process of writing this sequence, when I think of the poems in the sequence, Elizabeth Bishop’s poem ‘The Monument’ always comes into my mind. ‘The Monument’ is only a monument. But also an experience. Something you can walk around, and look at from every angle. Maybe you can climb on top of it and look down. Or lie on the floor and look up. You can’t climb inside it and look out. Or maybe you can. Still, by the end of the poem/experience, could you draw the Monument? Could you testify to the truth of it,to what it really looked like?
This was the first poem I wrote about that time, that place, that year. I wrote it half-asleep, sitting in front of the fire on the floor. The same feeling of half-asleep that you might have when you’re driving late at night, and you realise you need to pull over before you drift across a motorway, drift into a fence. I wasn’t driving, or at least I was only driving towards a poem. I woke up at 3am with my head in the dog basket and the house completely silent, and the poem (or at least a first draft) finished.
In That Year
And in that year my body was a pillar of smoke
and even his hands could not hold me.
And in that year my mind was an empty table
and he laid his thoughts down like dishes of plenty.
And in that year my heart was the old monument,
the folly, and no use could be found for it.
And in that year my tongue spoke the language
of insects and not even my father knew me.
And in that year I waited for the horses
but they only shifted their feet in the darkness.
And in that year I imagined a vain thing;
I believed that the world would come for me.
And in that year I gave up on all the things
I was promised and left myself to sadness.
And then that year lay down like a path
and I walked it, I walked it, I walk it.
This poem can be found in The Art of Falling, published by Seren 2015