There was one poem that needed the title said out loud, and that’s because its a past date. I wrote that very short poem on September 3rd 2017, in response to a moment, as I was processing it alone later. I posted it on facebook, a distant cry for help. It was a pivotal moment for me I now realise, and although the poem is not ‘new stuff’, it’s the reason I’ve carried on writing. Shortly after this date I began ‘The Artist’s Way’, in some attempt to recover my creativity, and had completed all of the morning pages and artist dates I could manage by the end of the year. I didn’t write a new poem or story for a whole year, and I probably didn’t get my writing mojo back until March of this year. All of 2018 feels like a stain that won’t come out.
When I first starting writing ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ I ploughed through the ENTIRE back catalogue of Tom Waits; collecting phrases: ‘Tom Waits on Women’, ‘Tom Waits on Heaven/Hell’, ‘Who is Tom Waits to Me?’ And so on. And these phrases were what I hung my ideas on. I joke about the plagiarism, and there are references to other sources too; I’ve quoted a small chunk from ‘JD Salinger’s ‘For Esme - with Love and Squalor.’ Tom Waits was the focus I had before, he’ll probably appear in my writing again and again, but I’m not making him a feature this time. No, this time the primary source that I’ve had to refer to are the diaries I kept from when I began ‘The Artist’s Way’ and still write. Diaries that capture my frustration and anguish, grief, hope...but are ridiculously mundane. Or at least I think so.
I watched a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert ‘Your Elusive Creative Genius’, where she describes her creative process as being her turning up to do her job, doing all the legwork, and waiting for the ‘creative genius’ to appear. I’ve paraphrased it badly, but it reminded me that waiting for inspiration to strike is only half the battle, and most of writing a new ‘anthology show thing’ is very hard work that you have to do. So I did my diligent research, picking out words, phrases and images from those diaries. I wrote ‘Cornwall Sonnet’ a while ago this way. I’ve focusing recently on diaries from January to early March of this year, and there I am, asking urgent questions, and starting to relate my experiences to a wider context. There is a whole lot of ‘Why Me?’ In those pages, even makes me cringe to write it.
I think when I finished The Freedom Program, having found a kind of warped solidarity, and the blackest of humour with those women, and when I went on the End Violence to Women and Girls March on March 9th, and had to fight back tears...of what...joy? Too painful for joy, but oddly joyful. I finally got over myself at that point. And now I’m afraid of what I’ve written in those diaries; one line said ‘I feel like a copy of a copy of a copy.’ Particularly frightening are the dreams I’ve written about while the abuse was happening, and I was in denial. All the flesh falling of my legs, a cow biting me, burn scars and bandages. But thankfully all that is behind me now, and I’ve even been caught smiling when I think no one is looking.
It’s also been oddly joyful to rehearse ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ again, just trying to remember it all, and which prop goes where, alone in my living room. I cut one of the poems that I’d recorded as a voiceover, I decided it slowed everything down, and its now an orphan that I might adopt into the new anthology. I’m performing the full show again for the first time in eighteen months, at the Railway in Winchester on June 1st. I’ve performed the 15 minute extract there a couple of times, but the last time I did the whole show in the Attic was July 2017. I’ve had to change a bit of wording in the introduction to cover the gap in time, or draw more attention to it, I don’t know. The show has been stuffed back into the suitcase for now, I’m hoping to receive a bit of outside eye feedback from a friend who has worked on the show with me before I perform it again in June. I have no more full show gigs booked, but Winchester is a good place for poets, as is Southampton, and I just need to see if I can get through this one first.
With love JJ