Category Archives: writing practice

More on witnessing….

“What to do? Where to turn? Is there a self-identity for the writer that combines responsibility with artistic integrity? If there is, what might it be? Ask the age we live in and it might reply – the witness. And, if possible, the eyewitness.

It’s an old role, this. I was there, I saw it, it happened to me: these are seductive recommendations, and make a deep appeal to the imagination…

…… Captivity narratives, castaway narratives, war stories, civil-war stories, slavery narratives, catastrophe stories, memoirs of hard-done-by-outlaws and pirates, incest-survivor stories, Soviet union gulag stories, atrocity stories: how much more compelling we find them if we think they’re based on real events, and especially real events that have happened to the writer!

The power of such narratives is immense, especially when combined with artistic power. And the courage to write them, and sometimes to smuggle then across borders so they can be published is equally stupendous. These stories exist in a realm that is neither fact nor fiction, but perhaps both: let us call it enhanced fact.

….This is why so many people have faked such stories….

….A socially conscious writer can quite easily be charged with exploiting the misery and misfortune of the downtrodden for his own gain……The line between these is sometimes thin, and sometimes it’s only in the eye of the beholder.

Then, too, the eyewitness can be a kind of voyeur.

…What did Yeats mean when he told a future generation of poets to cast a cold eye on life and death? Why does the eye have to be so cold?

…The eye is cold because it is clear, and it is clear because its owner must look: he must look at everything. Then she must record.

…the secret is that it isn’t the writer who decides whether or not his work is relevant. Instead it’s the reader. ”

Extracted from Margaret Atwood’s ‘Prospero, the Wizard of Oz, Mephisto & Co”,  in On Writers and Writing, Virago, 2003:104-109

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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: 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


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