I always wrote poetry, even when I was a kid, and mostly on snatches of envelopes and the backs of leaflets, and bits of paper and in scribbly notebooks and all over the place. It was more deliberate, perhaps more self-conscious, when I was a teenager, with Kate Bush hair and a literary bent, but the medium was the same. No order to things, just snippets of phrases here and there, song lyrics and poems and musings jumbled up and scuffing around and getting dog-eared in my bedside drawer.
I did the wrong course at University – twice. Firstly, I should have been doing Fine Art, but didn’t have the nerve. Perhaps I was right in thinking it would destroy me. I did English instead, but opted to do English Language half of the time, which, in fact, I hated. The Literature half of my course was esoteric and blissful. But I forgot to swap courses to a full Literature complement, and got stuck with half and half. The carelessness and lack of focus of youth. To offset those burdensome language modules I found so wearisome, I took Creative Writing, as I thought it would be a lark.
It was the best thing I ever could have done, as that’s how I met Dr. Graham. Sitting on his battered leather sofa, with its stuffing insides spilling out onto the floor, and his daughter’s drawings pinned on the noticeboard, and poetry books piled high in every corner, those workshops became the highlight of my week.
I was intimidated at first by the other students in the group. They were like something out of a bohemian indie film, and I was too afraid to speak. Gradually, speaking didn’t matter, as it turned out I could write. No one was more surprised about this than me.
Not just that – Dr. Graham saw something behind my eyes I didn’t know mattered. How he knew I had a bedside drawer of bits of paper with poems on, receipts and envelopes and jumbled up bits and bobs of words, I’ll never know. Or maybe I told him, over a sandwich one day, as we used to eat our lunch together sometimes and talk about poems. Gather it all together, Trudi, he said. This is what poets do. This is what poets are. You are one of them. Gather it together, and start a journal. Write in it every day, and fill it from front to back. Then let me read it.
So I did.
And his face when he read it? It gave me all the confidence I ever needed in life.*
And that’s when I started to understand that snippets of things, bits, bobs, wonderings and sketchings are the real deal. That’s poetry, in a way; small thoughts gathered together to make bigger feelings. Later on after having babies, I taught myself, at the kitchen table, over years, through many frustrations and a fragile sense of self, to draw, and paint and illustrate. I just wanted to, on one level, and I needed to, on another level. But more than that, I wanted to see if I could express those same snippety bits of small everyday things visually, as well as in words. And turn them into feelings, like a poem.
Small marks on paper collected together, gathered up and made into a visual form that tugs at you. It works. With practice, and patience, and a bit of magic, but it works. Just like with words, you can draw a poem, from a pencil, if you don’t try too hard, and if you look at it out of the side of your eyes, and keep yourself open.
I’m so glad I’ve found that out. It’s pleasing now to begin to weave the two disciplines – words and pictures – together in my professional work. It’s what I always wanted. I do think of myself as someone who makes poems happen, in writing and in art, though even that sounds too grand and la di da, which isn’t me at all. More accurate to say that I’m a collector. An observer. A recorder of marks and thoughts, of small moments scuffing around on bits of paper in your bedside drawer.
Gather it all together. This is what poets do. This is what poets are. And you are one of them.
*I lost (and had to regain) almost all of that confidence along the way. It happens!
This is a guest post from the wonderful Trudi Murray, someone I have followed for a little while now, and someone you should be following too! She is fabulous artist, illustrator, poet, writer, you name it she probably does it. Definitely check out her page and if you would like to guest post or have artwork to contribute feel free to head over to the ‘About Me‘ page and use the contact form at the bottom.