I wake up this morning to find the front garden partly littered with plastic plates and dried up remains from the weekend’s festivities. This beautiful creature called Fox, so destructive in nature, rips the rubbish bag open leaving everything spewing onto the neighbours front garden. My head is hurting from disturbed sleep and I know it’s because I need to scribble – something, anything! My thoughts drift to the weekend and my internal state. I was very down for the last few weeks due to a rejection for my collection, which I had been very hopeful about, but the gathering of people gave me the energy I needed to revitalise which I realise now, this morning, stood in my bedroom window, looking at the rubbish splayed: broken bones, bits of lamb carcuss, rotting salad, jalebi and cake crumbs, empty drinks bottles. I had been feeling just like that.
For almost ten days I had the whole house to myself to mope about in. Instead of writing I cleaned the oven with a very toxic oven cleaner, painted the kitchen and physically tired myself out with menial tasks until I felt ill. I have a new student, a Linguistics undergraduate, which means lots of David Crystal revision and that took my mind off things. Going back to my first love, which is the science of language, has been interesting. Poetry is so abstract and Linguistics so concrete. I spent a little time sounding out the whole phonetic alphabet and it was like reattaching my arms to my torso.
I realise now that my creative energy shuts down and converts into a physical output when I am trying to deal with a rejection. I have tonnes of energy and I think that’s why I have always been a restless person. The only place I go to to re-energise to get back to my work is a poetry gig: we’re all made of the same stuff, have a certain perspective for our art, suffer from rejections and of course when I see smiley and appreciative faces in the audience it lights me up inside. That connection is magical and I need it. Just a cuddle or ‘don’t worry, there’s something better out there for you’ doesn’t do it. Due to ramadan and timings it hasn’t been possible for me to go to any gigs and soak up some good vibes to pour into my work.
So I return to the weekend. It was magical…
my garden, which is my pride and joy, which I have poured love and energy into, has filled up with lovely human beings, some of whom are guests I don’t really know well but intend to know better as time progresses. I am watching everyone, noticing all the details of dress, make-up, hair, mannerisms, what is not being said as well as what is… as I do, unobtrusively, soaking up my dried-up empty sponge which holds my creative energy. I wish I could sit and chat and be more involved but it’s hard to do when you’re hosting. So, I appreciate the guests stepping into the kitchen and bringing the energy with them: I notice the synchronisation of tasks, self- assigned, perfectly deconstructed. The ladies all work well together and I know this has taken years to build. (I’m a recent addition to ‘the group’ and in my head I am fusing myself with this energy whilst retaining myself and being true to who I am. I’m a northern girl who carries Yorkshire Gold around with her in her handbag). One guest, a quiet and serene gentleman, is stood at the cooker, barbecuing halloumi and pepper skewers on the tawwa, Pakistani style, because I think they’ll disintegrate on the BBQ again. Another guest, a lady dressed in virginal white is frying chips and I’m worried that she’ll smell of chip fat for the rest of the day but she insists on helping and this allows me time and space to mingle a little. I can smell pangs of hunger from everyone in their desperate attempts to hide the fact that they’re all hungry! People start to wilt like unwatered flowers in small pots of dry compost. I’m getting anxious because I just want to feed them all. Later, one guest is kindly stabbing a watermelon for the platter of fruit: I admire her skill and am worried about her beautiful cream kurta. Folk come in casually and make themselves cups of tea, which makes me feel warm. There is inspection of my freezer drawer in admiration of the model of fridge and it feels like someone has peeped into my manuscript which I am not fully confident about because I know some poems will have to come out but I leave them in there like the almost expired fish fingers which I think will still be ok to eat because they have been frozen… but I’m ok with it because it’s creating an energy in the room which I am secretly loving. It’s amusing me. It’s uplifting. I love these people, I think to myself. I know them better now and I like the fact that they feel comfortable enough to just ‘be’. I like folk who can just ‘be’ and that draws me to them more.
As people eat I am worried about the level of spice – enough or not enough? Ah well, now’t I can do now. I am also looking at everyone from the kitchen window and thinking about how I never knew anyone here a few years ago and now we’re all in each other’s lives. I feel blessed by that. I have also learned that having blood connection with another person isn’t the be-all-and-end-all and a blood tie doesn’t form the superior human relationship. Friendship can be sweeter, in fact. I am also reflecting on the word ‘friendship’ and at what point exactly do you call someone your friend?
Later, I can feel it. That dreaded question of being asked to read. Guest H (to respect her anonymity) always asks me to read and I am anticipating it. However, this time someone else asks (the kind guest who must now smell of chip fat). I panic inside because I am not feeling right. I’m amazed at how her eyes and her whole face sink with disappointment when I decline. Her circumstances beg her to leave as she has to drive back to London and it’ll get late. I’m feeling guilty already. The panic turns into pangs of guilt. Later, someone I have met for the first time, jumps out of the crowd and asks me to do a recital. Just like that! Guest S I will call him. I guess, being a psychiatrist, he knows how to get me to do this (!) I give in. I think, well, what have I got to lose? He announces a reading, gathers an audience in my little haven, my garden, my safe space. I bring out safe poems: ‘published’, ‘approved’, ‘stamped-ok-to-read-when-feeling-anxious-or-fragile’ 🙂
Everyone is listening; and I mean everyone. It is silent enough to hear the gentle rustling of leaves in the tall trees at the end of the garden or creak in the decking. In this moment everyone peels away their societal labels assigned to them or those which they have acquired themselves. I notice the relaxing effect of rhythm and rhyme on people in the gathering – it’s like they’re all lying down having a massage and have switched off from the outside world completely.
It goes absolutlety fine and I am surprised at how much I enjoy reading to this crowd of listeners. They say Mashallah and applaude which is warming. There’s a mini-feedback and sharing of thoughts and we conclude, on a pure and human level, on the earth which I spend many hours taking care of with my rough bare hands. I also find it ironic that this is also the space where my writing often begins, in this very garden: inspiration, creation, output. 🙂
I am now writing again. My hands hurt and are rough from overworking on the house and I hate myself for doing that. It’s like a form of self-torture, but in a nurturing way: gardening, painting a room, cleaning. I am now reflecting on my stubborn nature and re-thinking the whole collection and its chronology. It needs work. It needs new poems. It is aged just as my laughter lines are becoming increasingly more like creases. I am also seriously thinking about going back to the novel or short story writing which I haven’t looked at for a while.
(I am also planning next year’s get-together. A microphone and speakers for an open-mic.? People read anything they wish to share, by any writer, in any language 🙂 )
Thank you, dear friends, old and new. For good vibes & for energy.