Today I have the pleasure of welcoming fellow member of the Poetry Society of the Open University, Julie Anne Gilligan, to reflect on her new collection Time Matters (Dempsey and Windle, 2022).
The poems in Time Matters are a mixture of memoir, vignette and reflection. There are various subjects and poetic forms: villanelles, pantoums, mirror, ekphrastic, prose and found, relating to different aspects of time.
Storytime opens the sequence. It is a simplistic title, which could lead anywhere. This is deliberate. I think the title of a poem is the key to the door of understanding, my own as much as that of any reader. My poems may have working titles but often the final title emerges from the editing process and may change several times in the development of a poem and any future variations of that poem. Even a last minute change from ‘Matters of Time’ to ‘Time Matters’ carried a subtle broadening of application. Whatever the title turns out to be, it is clue number one in the trail of discovery that is a poem.
An epigraph for me is the second. Almost all my poems have epigraphs or pensées. These may be humorous, philosophical or mysterious. Researching them adds to my enjoyment of writing and often provides inspiration for another poem. The Vonnegut quotation for Storytime reminded me of Archibald MacLeish’s affirmation (with which I agree) that a poem does not need to ‘mean’ but just to ‘be’.
I love words. I love playing with them: they are the building blocks of life and experience. As for clichés, forbidden fruit on the tree of contemporary poetics, Storytime is packed with them. I love clichés, I love playing with their context, subverting them and turning them into something more extraordinary than their face value. To me, clichés add nothing to a drab poem, it is how they are used that is critical. They have value in that they are part of our national psyche, our everyday speech, our regional dialects and our own personal idiolects and what is more, people understand them. That cannot be said of some contemporary poetry which if obscure and laden with weighty intellect can alienate potential readers.
From the very beginning of my study of poetry as a part of creative writing, the emphasis has very much on being ‘contemporary.’ I recall one of my tutors describing some of my early efforts as ‘archaic’. I responded that as I am a product of my decades, I felt that it was more ‘me’ and my developing ‘voice’ rather than archaic as such. There are many ‘rules’ in writing poetry and I love breaking them. Also, I believe humour and wit and a sense of the ridiculous are essential to enjoyment of life and poetry. If using words that relate to certain periods of time and history, whether personal or not is archaic then I am guilty.
There is probably a feminist undercurrent at work in Storytime and beyond. Certainly this has been spotted by others, although I am not particularly aware of it as I write. Likewise my interest in religious studies and what makes people ‘tick’ (there I go again!) often seems to reference itself without me trying too hard.
‘There is no time like the present…’ is an undisputable cliché, ‘The perfect present’, indeed time is a gift as well as the thread that holds everything together, a kind of memory chain that demonstrates for me the interconnectedness of everything, even unspoken thoughts… and unwritten poems.
amended 12/07/22 12.59.
Next week read my review of the wonderfully engaging Time Matters.
AVAILABLE NOW ‘UNMUTED‘ by Nigel Kent!
Nigel Kent’s collection of ekphrastic poems, Unmuted (Hedgehog Poetry Press), is inspired by a gallery of famous works by artists from the present and the past. Each artwork acts as a frame in a storyboard which he unfreezes and unmutes to reveal the narrative he imagines lies behind it. Even for those who have no interest in art these direct, accessible and moving poems will stand alone and promise to engage with issues that truly matter.
For details of how to purchase a copy, click here.