My first Sunday Poem post in over a month and I’m already back into my bad habits – ie writing it just before midnight when I should really be asleep. This morning I went for a six mile run with my running group, then came home, had lunch and then set off to Grasmere. I performed alongside two of the young writers from my young writers group (Em Humble and Hannah Hodgson) today at the Roundabout Theatre in Grasmere to a small but perfectly formed audience. They both read really well – I found myself getting a bit emotional watching them – thinking back to the first time they performed and how much more confident they are now. I then drove over to see my sister in Egremont, and then drove back home which brings me to 11pm and writing blogs at unreasonable hours.
I said in my last post that I’d been writing quite a bit in the last week, but didn’t mention what a strange week it had been, probably because I was still in it. I came back from Macedonia, but left my husband there as he was going on a cycling holiday and planning to end up in Hungary (don’t ask why – I have no idea). So I’ve been at home on my own all week – and I realised it’s really rare that I’m at home on my own – normally it’s me that goes off somewhere to a poetry reading or festival, and even though I’m very independent and do a lot of stuff ‘on my own’, actually, I’m usually surrounded by people, so I’m never really on my own.
But this week I have been! I haven’t been completely isolated – I’ve seen quite a few friends through running or arranging to meet up for drinks. But I deliberately tried not to fill my days up. I definitely got more writing done. It felt like I was slowly falling into myself each day – that sounds strange but that is how it felt. I decided I was going to write poetry every morning, whether that was writing new work or editing, and leave admin and answering emails until the evening, which really seemed to work. I wrote some new poems, and got a submission ready and posted out to a magazine.
On Saturday I drove over to Manchester to the Poets and Players event to see Clare Shaw, Hilda Sheehan and Malika Booker. What a fantastic reading that was. My favourite line of the afternoon has to go to Hilda though: ‘Knickers are the prison of the vagina’.
Today’s Sunday Poem is by Linda Klakken, from Norway. Linda was one of the fantastic poets I met in Macedonia. The poem is from her first collection, which translates as ‘Mother, wife, slave’ published by Flamme publishing house in 2010.
The title and then the theme of the poem reminded me of the brilliant Anne Sexton poem Her Kind – it has the same kind of attitude behind it, I think.
Trying to pinpoint what it is I like about this poem, I realise it’s something to do with that repeating phrase ‘I was the kind of girl’ – the honesty and vulnerability of it, as the speaker tells us she was the kind of girl ‘who went out late at night/and never came home’. So far, this feels like a teenage rebelliousness that maybe we are all familiar with to one extent or another. But it is saved from predictability by ‘I pedalled downhill/with my eyes closed’ and ‘death was nothing but a bluebell in the heart’ which wins the prize for best line of poetry I’ve read this week.
I love the hopefulness, the optimism of this poem. The fact that in Stanza 2, the body can absorb ‘parties/parks/concerts/grass seeds/orgasms/rai’ That the body absorb all of these things and still be ok, and then the surprise of the next line ‘I was the kind of girl/ who always sat down/when things got tough’. I like how this can be taken in one of two ways – either the speaker sits down and gives up when things get tough, or another interpretation is that the speaker of the poem stays around, i.e ‘sat down’ when things got tough.
Probably the first interpretation is more likely, but it’s nice to play around with these things. Another of my favourite bits in this poem is the ‘days full/of lilacs and rain’. I like the openness that female sexuality and desire is approached with. The speaker wakes up ‘in strange beds’ and then everything changes, when she meets someone who ‘hugged her heart’. The ‘someone’ in question doesn’t appear in the rest of the poem – as if the camera has swung slightly to the right to catch someone retreating through a doorway, before it comes back again to the speaker, and the rest of the focus stays firmly on the speaker with those brilliant lines ‘we might all be that kind of girl/who just might leave/but stays/just might get together/cause we’re all alone’.
I don’t really feel like I’ve done this poem justice, because I’m pretty much falling asleep as I’m typing now, because I started doing this way too late, but I hope you enjoy it. I would love to read more of Linda’s work translated into English, so it is basically my mission now to nag her until she does this.
A bit about Linda then – Linda was born in 1979 in Ålesund, a small town on the westcoast of Norway. She is a writer and a journalist. She started her writing career in her mid twenties, when she got accepted at the prestigous writing school Skrivekunstakademiet in Bergen in 2003. After being published in a series of poetry anthologies, she wrote her first book, the non-fiction travel documentary The Last Beat Poet, as a hommage to Lawrence Ferlinghetti.In 2013, her first poetry collection was published at Flamme publishing house. Mother, wife, slave (Mamma, kone, slave) was considered one of the best books of 2013 by several newspapers and literature critics, and is described as ”poems about being a queer, proletarian mother of small children in a post-Millenial Norway.”
Her second book, Finish the book about your life (Skriv ferdig boka om livet ditt) was published in 2014. Her most recent poetry collection, Eight minutes (Åtte minutter) was publised in 2016. Apart from this, Klakken has received The Nordic Council of Minister’s scholarship for writers in 2005 and 2006 in Gothenburg. Her poetry has been part of numerous exhibitions, as for instance the Martin Tebus Collection in Trondheim Art Museum and in galleries in Oslo.
In August 2017 Linda Klakken published her children’s fiction book.It is called Stupid, stupid heart (Dumme, dumme hjarte).
THE KIND – Linda Klakken
Translated by Nils-Øivind Haagensen
I was the kind of girl
who went out late at night
and never came home
I pedaled downhill
with my eyes closed
and fought with girls
from other crews
death was nothing but a bluebell in my heart
and all that mattered in life
was what came next
and all that really mattered
was what never came
wanted to go
didn’t know where
wondered what lay in store for me
wondered why I was alone
and if I was doing something wrong
while the body absorbed
I was the kind of girl
who always sat down
when things got tough
I sat on sidewalks
and side of beds
the garbage trucks woke me in the morning
the ambulances chased me home
of lilacs and rain
and me thinking of anything but
what was to become of me
and my friends
was so low
that they couldn’t get out of bed
of course we picture ourselves
hunched over French novels
hunched over text messages
hunched over stiff nipples
hunched over our change to see if
we can afford some smokes
hunched over ourselves
brilliant it was
but also very difficult
then someone appeared
and all the while
I was dangling in mid-air
all the while I was wondering
where I belonged
I was the kind of girl
who danced without inhibition
who woke in strange beds
and called home
with nothing particular on my mind
I jumped bridges in summer
and swam in rivers with no fear
and come to think of it
we might all be that kind of girl
who just might leave
just might get together
cause we’re all alone
wondering why everything is wrong
when all we’re doing is right