I am working on a new poem for the Fruitmarket Gallery at the moment. It’s taking shape in my mind, some blasts of energy and a feeling of lonely strangeness. Maybe poem writing is always a bit of an out-of-body experience, but with this one it’s particularly so. Writing a new poem about stars is hard, given so many poets have been there (..not literally). My poem ‘Lonesome Galaxy’ was voiced by a disappearing galaxy and was really more about dark energy. With this one, I want to do something a bit happier But I kept thinking, on all my walks, about how boring it would be to be a star, or to live all the way out there. Maybe I’d been a bit influenced by reading Michel Faber’s ‘The Book Of Strange New Things’ in preparation for the Fruitmarket event. At any rate, the ‘thinginess’ of life on Earth – as I watched my dearly beloved rescue dog jump, again, into the canal, and swim through a yellow clogging of leaves at dusk – isn’t something I would ever want to swap for life among the stars. So far, the closest I have come to having a eureka moment with the thing was not:
- when I sat down with my notebook and tried to have ideas
- when I sat researching stars on the internet for a week
- when I sat staring out of the window wanting to have a good idea for the poem when I wasn’t really trying but was
- when in desperation I typed out two stanzas of what I’d got in my head so far
…but flying around the ring-road in my beaten-up car on Tuesday night, late for a meeting of Ink Inc. It was black and cold and silent (the car has no heater, radio), and the road was almost empty. Just the lights of occasional cars shooting past me in the dark… and bam. ‘I’m a star, I’m a star,’ I said to the windscreen, realising that I sounded mad but not really caring. There were these shells zooming along, like balls of light, but all of them dark inside, and this feeling I couldn’t say, so that’s probably why I said, ‘I’m a star, I’m a star’. Because saying the nearest thing you can imagine is better than nothing, when you’re working on a poem. I have it in my head now. I need to find a way to get it down in words, but it’s there now – the starter feeling, like the starter for bread dough.
I got really warm feedback on my two stanzas from my friends at Ink Inc. Pippa (Goldschmidt) thought I would like reading about Mach’s Principle – handy having writer friends who are also cosmologists – and that’s been working out well.
Still don’t want to live up there though. Got burgers and a dog down here.