Saturday, 3 August 2019


I've been lucky enough to be asked by poet Paul Brooks to take part in his poet interview series on his blog site, Wombwell Rainbow. Check it out, he's putting up new interviews every day. He's also looking for poets to interview in the future, so contact him via the website if you're interested.

His questions about the inspiration and motivation behind my reading and writing really got me thinking and were strangely echoed in my Finnish language tutorial this week where I had to discuss why reading is important and how it inspires us. Trying to verbalise this in a second language was just marginally harder than for the interview. That's when you learn you don't know the Finnish for inspire, explore and adventure (inspiroi, tutkea ja mielikuvitus). But I didn't even know the Finnish for vocabulary - sanavarasto, a stock or warehouse of words, so I still have a long way to go.

I love breaking words apart, especially words in foreign languages, and learning their etymology and usage. The idea of having a word warehouse in my head feels like the perfect analogy, the words all stored in various boxes and filing cabinents. I'm sure the organisation is an absolute mess, like most of my real-life storage, items organised by need, use and more random connections rather than some systematic method. When I lived with my parents I kept my library card in a laundry basket in the basement. If someone moved it, I could never think where it should sensibly be, but I could always find it with my way. Our own systems work.

So when I look for the word 'door' in Finnish, I know I'd be shuffling through files of Scottish Gaelic to find it. I was just watching a video of the Scottish Poet Laureate/ Makar Jackie Kay reciting her poem 'Threshold' to the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 2016. She mentioned that in Gaelic they say 'dùin an doras' for 'shut the door' and that took me back to learning Gaelic in Glasgow, so many years ago. 'Open the door' was also one of the first phrases I learned in Finnish when my son shouted it over and over at nursery when it was time for me leave. These memories pile up on top of the word 'door' in a wonderful scrapbook.

It's also how my writing works, I start with a prompt, specific or more general and I just follow it where it leads me, jumping from one image or connection to the next. I might look at crafting a poem from the idea of shutting the door in several languages just from writing that paragraph. My poems have begun to cross over into Finnish and other languages more and more as I shuffle through the collected images and memories in my brain while I write. 

My brain is a bit scattershot today. It doesn't help that we're on the last week of our ten-week summer holidays and I'm tired of having the kids home, of having to organise things for them, they're tired of all their friends being away, of having so much unstructured free time. We're sick of each other's faces, but they also want me to be involved in everything. I can't sit and write for longer than 2 minutes without someone asking me how to pour melted white chocolate into a straw to make a fake pen or for money to buy a can of spray whipped cream for the waffles they must have for dinner even though it's lunch-time.

I know I'll regret losing this time when they go back to school and we have to wake up and go to sleep and do everything to a schedule. When I have to pull out my calendar to slot everything in, even time to write. So I'm trying to enjoy these last unstructured days with them and with my writing by starting another poem-a-day course for August on the theme of summer. 

Best wishes for your summer. 

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