I have great pleasure in inviting Paul Waring to drop in today, a poet whom I have admired for some time.
Thank you Nigel for inviting me to drop in and write about Melt, a poem from my latest collection Muckle Anima, a Dreich 2022 ‘Classic Chapbook’ competition winner.
I wrote my first poem in 1990. Before this, I spent much of the 1980’s writing lyrics and singing in a number of Liverpool bands. Between 1996-2016 I wrote almost no poetry, largely due to my work commitments as a clinical psychologist.
Melt started out as a title and a broad idea to depict the sense of madness that falling in love can induce; the state that can result in us being almost oblivious to everything else in our lives. Writing this drop-in for Nigel brought to mind a song I wrote in the early 1980’s – also about falling in love – called Perfect Madness which had the line “take me away / take me away / it’s a perfect madness”.
In terms of writing style, Melt represented a change in direction for me. At the time of my retirement in 2018 many of my poems were observations of everyday life, past and present. And, although I’m not certain what brought about the change, I do recall wanting to experiment and write about themes from unusual angles, be more imaginative and, to some degree, playful.
I joined a local Stanza group, met regularly with a small group of local poets and attended a number of (often very stimulating) poetry workshops. I made a conscious effort to spend less time writing and more time reading poetry. I immersed myself in collections by favourite poets like John Burnside, Marianne Moore, Jo Shapcott, David Harsent, Alice Oswald and Robin Robertson. In addition, I found books like Jo Bell’s ‘52’ and Ruth Padel’s ‘52 Ways Of Looking At A Poem’ to be mines of useful ideas and information.
Deciding on the opening for Melt proved difficult, so much so I almost abandoned the idea. But, seemingly out of nowhere, the lines when I said if / and I only said if / we were stone came to mind. And despite seeming a bit ‘left-field’, I liked the simple, conversational and almost casual tone. It prompted the contrast in imagery in the next lines between street and beach pebbles and the highest mountain peak – a fitting location to ‘fall’ from! At this point, I wanted to capture something of the essence of falling in love; an overwhelming, delirious state where one might imagine anything is possible. I liked the depiction of us humans, infinitessimally small in relation to the universe, yet so easily deluded into thinking we are bigger than life itself.
I must point out that by this stage the imagery had become so ramped up I did worry I’d gone over the top – hence the line (OK, maybe that’s going too far). The final lines seek to bring perspective and speak of mutability in the world, how quickly everything can change. I came up with the word ‘trickledrift’ to depict how ‘love’ might literally melt and cause people to drift apart. However, I tried to avoid being ‘preachy’ or overly serious, because I wanted Melt to be a playful take on the crazy madness of falling in love.
What I find interesting about this poem is that after the struggle to get started, I suddenly became fully immersed in the writing process and (perhaps for the first time) let my imagination run wild. Looking back, I wish I’d had the foresight to make notes about how the poem came together but, like many poets, I was no doubt solely focused on getting a draft to edit, hone and polish to completion.
Similar to Quotidian (Yaffle Press) my debut pamphlet, Muckle Anima has a number of observations of everyday life, typified by poems like No Prizes, Love In The Time Of Power Cuts, and The Summer In Question. However, I wanted the scope and themes of Muckle Anima to be broader; to range from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Hence, imaginary poems about Auden, Dylan Thomas and Henry Raeburn’s iconic skating reverand painting sit alongside ones like Unfinished, Pizza & Trumpets, My Imaginary Mother, The One About Flying, and Substance, all of which I feel mirror the change of direction seen in Melt. Many of these poems were products of the first (seemingly endless) Covid-19 lockdown, a time when there was little else to do but sit, ponder, incubate and hatch ideas.
Finally, a word about the title Muckle Anima. I’d considered titles like Out There or The Big Out There. This brought to mind (from my psychology studies) Carl Jung’s theory of ‘collective unconscious’ and the concepts of anima and animus. Regardless of whether such things actually exist, what appeals to me is the possibility, however remote, that we might be connected to something bigger, more muckle, than our tiny selves.
So there you have it. Thank you once again Nigel for this opportunity to talk about a poem that means so much to me.
Next week read my review of this very special collection.
Catch up with poets previously featured: Anna Saunders
About The Prohibition of Touch
The power of physical contact is a constant theme in this startling new collection by Anna Saunders. The Prohibition of Touch is populated with vivid characters from myth, legend and real life, all of whom understand the impact of intimacy or its lack. Here we meet a bereaved woman as she consults the goddess of Loneliness, a girl who ‘stockpiles memories of touch’, Pasiphae, whose taboo encounter with the bull spawns a monster, an arsonist’s wife who dreams of a wedding dress made of fire, the moon as it tries to teach a girl how to gain a new skin to recover from an attack, a man who crafts a lover from wool, and a mother and daughter, walking in mist, whose closeness means that even ‘At the heart of the Fret, the day is full of diamonds.’
Here are poems, at times celebratory, at others elegiac or angry, that meet the readers eye and offer solace, despite the fact they sometimes sing of the dark —just like the White Hart in the city park whose gentle gaze says ‘that all is well, that the signs are still auspicious/ despite, despite’.
Anna Saunders’ poems reach back to the very origins of who we are, and in their contact with the ancient things they transform themselves into freshness, newness, life. Dripping with myth, they sing, they mourn, they celebrate. There is magic in these poems—not the superficial magic of illusion but the deep magic of being. ‘The visions of the soul’ she writes, ‘are the only real sight’. And these poems are that vision, that gift, that good.
Joseph Fasano Author and poet
Touch, our only reciprocal sense – we cannot touch without being touched – is explored across vast horizons of time and imagination in this sumptuous new collection from Anna Saunders. Here we travel from Norse and Greek mythology to dark TV drama, encountering the likes of magicians, arsonists and the victims of crime – a virtual crowd of richly-imagined characters from past and present, who invade our own reality, probing our innermost fears about the implications of touch, and its lack. ‘This is form calling on absence’ we read in After Echo, and in a deft and intriguing array of poetry forms, Saunders snares those unsettling things just beyond our vision, and holds them up to the moonlight for us to see.
Anna Saunders has been described as ‘a poet who surely can do anything’ by The North, ‘a modern myth maker’ by Paul Stephenson, and Tears in the Fence said of her ‘Anna Saunders’ poetry is reminiscent of Plath – with all its alpha achievement and radiance’. She is the author of Communion, (Wild Conversations Press), Struck, (Pindrop Press), Kissing the She Bear, (Wild Conversations Press), Burne Jones and the Fox, Ghosting for Beginners and Feverfew – described as ‘rich with obsession, sensuousness and potency’ by Ben Ray, and as ‘a beautiful and necessary collection’ by Penny Shuttle. She is also the Executive Director of Cheltenham Poetry Festival and works as a creative writing tutor and mentor.
You can pre-order The Prohibition of Touch from Indigo Dreams here https://www.indigodreamspublishing.com/anna-saunders
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.
“Kent’s poetry is succint, never bloated and always delivered with a poignant and very human point of view.” Priss Bliss, Dreich Broad No. 3
For details of how to purchase a copy, click here