notes and sketches: on process

The workshop

[Session I]

“Okay, let’s all write that then”, he says

“We’ve got fifteen minutes”

Around the table heads bow, brows furrow, pens scratch

Her fat universes turn pondering

dark matter she must not betray

bright orbs whose heat she will not share

[Session II]

They read

With each testimony new galaxies storm into hers

fizzing spraying blasting spewing clattering

Now it’s her turn

She battens down her gaze

locks her ears to her inadequate voice

bleats her offering

They blink, nod, sniff

Did the earth move for you?

[Session III]

Her self is stripped

What’s left no longer fills her clothes

Men talk over the insect whine of her voice

In the street she avoids being trodden underfoot

[Session IV]

They sit round the table

stripping yesterday’s carcass

cleaving phrases

slicing sounds

They take her words

place them in their mouths

taste their shapes

And she is reconstituted:

swollen, bursting, grown

© Kyra Pollitt, 2015


notes and sketches: recalling witness

The 5th February 2004 was my son’s 8th birthday. That evening a group of Chinese illegal workers were taken by gang masters to dig for cockles in Morecambe Bay, just behind our house. It is not known exactly how many were in the cockling group.

The bay was our playground, although – like all locals – we were hugely respectful of its power. The tides of the bay are as notorious and treacherous as the sinking sands beneath. They have always followed obscure patterns, often remaining invisible until the sands are completely encircled.

21 bodies were recovered in the following days. One further body was found in 2010. It is understood at least one is still missing.

Washing up

Was I the last
 to see you all 
alive?

What was it you saw?

A white woman 
framed in a glow of warm kitchen

as the dark closed in

after the boy’s birthday

washing up

bitter

to February’s rapacious tide

of traffic 
flooding

our quiet lane accustomed

to hoof fall still

I couldn’t believe you would

at this time of year

at this time of night

‘They’ll turn back’, I thought

as I turned my back

and sank – cockled – into the sofa

before


I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here

Morning’s milk was marooned

on the cold stone sill

isolated

by the tickertape yelling

INCIDENT

at our front gate

All day
 the helicopters circled

high over the swelling stream

of panda cars

vehicles stuck with antennae

casting views 
from window to television set

flocks of ambulances

arriving hopefully

leaving silently

We sold the house

We found we could no longer play

on the shore without

thinking of you
 and the

washing up

©Kyra Pollitt 2004


Notes and sketches: interview practice (self)

There was a time, a pivotal time. She can no longer recall how it came to be. Did she feel the momentum? She felt the moment.

The moment was marked. It was signified. A decision to step away, step back, step beyond an identity she had. It is now no longer possible for her to remember where the identity came from – she may have created it, it may have been given to her – anyway she couldn’t help but be it. She still has it, wears it in public.

But today, in this moment, she is going to betray it. She is going to respond to something else, something alien, a different space, a different possibility of being.

She steps back from the noise, the shrieks, the movement, the colour into the silent, shaded tile-dark Gothic corridor and begins to walk – step by step, echo by echo – until she reaches the large wooden door.

She stops for a second to reconcile her difference. From here there is no other way forward, only back.

She knocks. A discernible silencing of the mannered murmur behind the door. A long pause, hollow in the doomy corridor….

The door opens; a teacher’s face appears; a teacher’s gaze appraises her.

“Can I speak to Mrs. Higson?” She can’t resist the edge of defiance in her voice, though she can hear it.

The door closes. Time passes. The door opens. Mrs. Higson – transgressed by possession of a steaming mug, a half-eaten biscuit and a crumb on her cheek – regarding her silently, quizzically, commandingly.

“I wrote a poem for the school magazine”, she says.

Mrs. Higson’s eyes widen, but she holds her face together – just. Wordlessly she holds out her hand, takes the paper, acknowledges it, nods, closes the door.

She’s done it.

She stands for longer than she should, breathing – long enough to hear the surprise crescendo behind the door.

She moves away.

The space closes behind her, its residue in print, on a page, in a school magazine from 1977 that she keeps in a box somewhere, in a room, behind a door.

©Kyra Pollitt 2015


Notes and sketches: random scribble

frailty of spine

discarding calipers

for being calipers

lacking

brace

©Kyra Pollitt 2015


Notes and sketches: thinking about connections

Having no one to play with on a warm May night…

Let the candles feel the air, wallow

in soft longing just overly

wrinkling into dreams and seeing

now

unearthed my feet

I’m so far off, upside round and dangling like

99 went by and one was left behind…

Catch my hand, catch my skirts,

gather me all in,

wind me, entwine me…

Take me down, and soon

to follow

the blindly braven

braying fortunes in newly-houred streets, playing

keepy-uppy with the moon

Copyright @ 2015 Kyra Pollitt


Notes and sketches: practising telling

The Night We Knew For Sure…

Jacqui reached into the wooden cabinet and rescued a bottle of Captain’s Reserve – a fine St. Lucian label. We vowed to sail the seas together.

The bottle moved freely between us. We laughed, and smiled, and told….

David saw that we had drifted free of our moorings. Co-ordinating our position, his flickering fingers conjured a sparkling Caribbean sea.

Later still, each of us using a palm to steady our wavy vision, we noticed we had become pirates.

We laughed heartily, and poured another round.

Copyright@2015 Kyra Pollitt


The turn to [w]righting

I loved the PhD process – it felt like the best kind of holiday. But the post-doc slump was a limbo where potential only served to paralyze.

I spent three years labouring to construct new paths, only to dither at my own crossroads, punchdrunk and confused. Everyone knows you meet the devil at the crossroads if you hang around there too long.

The recent UK election results were a slap in the face though, weren’t they?

A wake-up. A call to arms.

I’d love to be mistaken, but I have a sense that I’m about to witness the dissolution of many things I hold dear to my homeland, my landscape, my reality.

So what can I do?

I can write. I’ve always written. I’ve never not been able to write.

But I have always taken it for granted.

After the PhD, I trained as an English teacher and have spent time volunteering in classrooms with teenagers and adults who are learning English. They are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. Their stories are inspirational – how brave must you be to leave everything, and perhaps everyone you have loved and begin again in a new and distant unknown?

How inspiring when a thirty year old woman who has never had the opportunity to be literate in any language struggles through her first formal lesson, returning the following week having diligently conquered not only the manipulation of a pencil but all the letters of our Roman alphabet. How not to shed a tear watching her quietly and proudly score full marks in the spelling test?

So now I see the privilege and the power of writing. But how to use it?

I asked a professional writer I met lately. She told me, ‘You have to be selfish to be a writer. You start with competitions online; that’s how you get into it’.

I didn’t have to think about this much to know this is not my kind of practice.

Then I found myself working in a wonderful, integrated but temporary environment. It feels both entirely natural and starkly unusual to work in this little utopia, in this company of people that properly represent the diversity of our society. We are working on a piece about transformation.

It was when I was pouring tea and affirming – “Yes, yes. We must give voice’.

So that’s it then.

This is what I can do. So I will do it. I will gather stories and give witness.

I can use all my scholarship; the languages I have learned, the linguistics I have studied, my Social History degree. I can use the decades of translating and interpreting, the years spent lending my voice to others.

Isn’t this ‘translation art’, after all?

I can use all I learned at CeNTraL (the Centre for Narratives and Transformative Learning) from wonderful women like Jane Speedy, Susanne Gannon and Tami Spry; the Writing as Inquiry, the Narrative Interviewing, the Collective Biography, the Auto-ethnography.

I will wrangle with words until I am a wordwright. I will write, so the weight of the words may help right the imbalances in our homeland, our landscape, our reality.

Nana Froufrou does [w]righting.

So now I’m packing my pencil and heading out. It may take time to develop this practice, but I’ll keep you posted with notes and sketches and voices….

Copyright@2015 Kyra Pollitt


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