Wednesday, 18 June 2008


Writing is apparently like mining. You search about for something that will keep you supplied with ideas for a while, and dig out those ideas until they run out.

I've not found that seam... at least, I've never had that sense of 'here we go, this will be great... where's the spade?' Maybe that's because I've been writing short stories for too long! maybe I've just been mining small patches of coal in buckets, not seams?

I know what I'm writing for this 'thing that might be a novel' but each part is discrete so far, so I can't say I have a sense that it's a seam to be mined.

But. I think I've just stumbled on a bit of a drift mine possibility... and it's not stories, or novel... but poetry.

I've been writing poetry seriously (ha! one a month, when I feel something needs that shape) since January. My output is slow, and as much gets scrapped as started, almost.

Aside...Is there something embarrassing about poetry? Something my head still won't let me do without wanting to shut the study door?!

But suddenly, over the last few days, I've been finding images rising up from my childhood, all based on the town of Merthyr in south Wales. The 'novel' is loosely based here, and I wonder if the subconscious suddenly tips out memories for you, like an old suitcase flies open in the attic, and you spend a few days sorting through things you'd forgotten for years...

And far from 'trying' to write 'nice lines'... the voice has taken over, and I'm just having fun following the memories.

It'll be a different story when I run out... but in the last day or two, its been fun!

Here's the opening few lines of Her on the Corner, (Yeah, I know, dreadful poetry... but you should have seen her!)

Her on the Corner

There’s a chest she had!
‘Breasts’ they were, and they
swelled up from her belt
like a shelf.

On her head was a beehive,
yellow as Nan's scrambled egg
or the 'canary' square
in my Rowney box.

And at night, smoking
sweet cigarettes in my bed,
I heard her walking out.
To meet men, Mrs Pym said...



SueG said...

I'm so glad you're still writing poetry! When you win the Forward Prize, I'll be so happy for you (while also deep in my heart feeling proud for helping you get started). Those opening lines are great -- and tantalizing. xo

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Sue... you are so good for the ego! I fear it might be a while until I put The Forward Prize on the wall. Ahem.

And thank you for getting me started! I've had a couple of pieces accepted at Shadowtrain for July, I think...

Sarah Hilary said...

Love the scrambled eggs hair! Wish I could do poetry...

Vanessa Gebbie said...

yes... so do I! I'm still having fun though!

Tania Hershman said...

Great metaphor about coal mining, so appropriate for what you are writing about. I love that poem, the voice is so strong, the cadence, the rhythm, don't stop, even if you do shut the study door!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

good old mining. gets everywhere!

thanks T