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05 Jan 2011

Mark Grist, Poet in Residence, Blog 4 - Jan 2011

So, it's cold. Again. On the train. Again. And I'm typing, ag... oh. Actually. That's a bit of a change. I feel like I haven't written in AGES. Normally I'd be playing on my DS, or looking at everybody and wondering whether I look as tired as they do.

I've been four months now - gosh! - that's a long time, actually! And I haven't starved, which is a massive bonus. It turns out that there are lots of options open to a poet with a background in secondary school education. This means that I've been working a lot - travelling on these trains for hours - on a few different projects.

First off, the Arts council have funded a new show that I'm writing about my dreadful lack of memory - and the island that I grew up on, Unst. I'm heading back over to visit Unst in a couple of months for a week to explore the island, meet up with people I can't remember and learn to play the violin (or fiddle) again. I keep trying out material with pupils in schools, to see if I can write a show for kids about memory that isn't totally mind numbingly boring.

Otherwise, I've been touring schools in South London with Mixy, performing and working with some great young writers. They've produced some amazing work and the teachers really impressed me. Many of the schools were in special measures and many of the students I worked with live in areas that have issues with gang crime. A lot of the material produced was about the concerns that they had about the areas they lived. Some really powerful, moving and honest pieces produced.

Apart from that, it's been great doing lots of evening gigs, but I'm at a point where I feel that I've been a bit cowardly about my writing - being busy has allowed me to get out of practice and it's time to get back on it, force myself to write more. January is looking a little quieter, so I can really get writing again - although Mixy and I are on an East of England tour towards the end of the month.

Incidentally, if you've got any suggestions for titles for poems, chuck em this way. I'll see how many I can write - should be helpful in getting back into the swing of things.

Here's a piece I wrote for my Shetland boy project - looking at a key memory of my Mum


Before we knew each other
I was lump
Creamy little bump

of energy,
Loved fiercely
As I slipped,
Wet and wriggling
Into your world.

In the following years we sat, sunk in your armchair,
Me, little clay ball on your lap turning pages
Tracing grubby fingers as you read
Of heroic women and men, the actions
That shape us into something worthwhile.

I climbed the gate for that girl at Nursery
I told Ryan Skuse to leave them alone
till he thumped me in the mud
And I was slippery with tears,
till I was in sight of our home.
Till I was in sight of you.

Now my heart gulps
as you tell me
about this new lump,
Cold lump, uninvited

And you cry down the phone
And later so do I
At the lump in my throat
Lump in my throat
that just won't go away.

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