I happened to hear the last moments of ‘One to One’ on Radio 4 this morning during which Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, was telling of a woman she’d met who, it seems in a state of despair, set herself on fire in the street. While the woman burned a tree nearby caught fire. Horribly, I anticipated Juliet Lyon’s next utterance: the woman is in prison for criminal damage. It seems absurdly naive to wonder how such a scenario is possible because how easily mistaken we evidently still are as a society and seemingly oblivious to the damaging effects that can follow certain misunderstandings.
These thoughts stayed with me as I set out to assess the effectiveness of my recent attempts with language.
Perhaps I was hoping that some of the symmetry of the date (14/1/14) would inspire my poems with a discernible patterning. Perhaps also in reaction to my internal censor I had a feeling to go maverick, to rebel against this niggling know-it-all voice. So, across my front room floor, I made a carpet of my poems, drafts and ideas. Somehow I needed to see all the material I had - perhaps to get a sense of the shape of it. And I think it was also that I had a feeling that the language was shouting out to me - I just needed to sit down for a moment in a quiet space and listen to it. So I did.
Passing off those doubts of not being able to do justice to the language, of being wrapped up in wanting to let the language speak for itself, while knowing I have to handle it in some way - I came to the realisation that, once I sat quietly and listened, in this instance, it was my own voice that I was hearing and because it was my own, that explained why I had been missing it. In amongst the array of voices spreading out around me, I hadn’t thought to be listening out for my own.