Friday, 15 February 2013

Poem: Autumn Walk

The crisp crunch of leaves underfoot
And my own breathing
Are the only sounds around for miles, probably
Or enough miles for me. 
If I were to scamper and scream with joy
Through the leaf carpeted lanes
Of my childhood.
No one can see me, hear me, know me
No one can touch me, want me, need me
I am six again and free of adult shackles.
I can shout and jump and laugh
And not be afraid of it, 
Afraid of pure bliss.

Only I don't do it.
I walk sedate and grown up
And take in the cooling autumn air
As I imagine a smaller, younger, happier me
Leaping along the road.
That's enough for me in the wilds of the country.
That's enough for me to remember. 
That's enough for now. 

But when I'm older - old - I might come back
To try it again.
To shriek and holler and giggle.
Perhaps my old friends will join me,
Even if they've gone.
And yes, I do think I would like to spend my last moments
Breathing in the autumn air, crunching the crisp leaves,
And living. Until the end.

©Lisamarie Lamb 2013 

Friday, 8 February 2013

Review: The Forbidden Stories by Steve Silkin

I think it was the title that originally drew me to this book. The word 'forbidden'. It sounded exciting and daring and a little bit naughty. I bought it a year ago and it sat, forgotten, in my Kindle along with almost 200 other novels and short story collections, waiting for me to get round to it.

By the time I did, I had forgotten what it was about. That's the problem with eReaders; you can't sneak an easy peak at the blurb to remind yourself what it is you're reading. Often you can't even quickly flip to the cover to see the title or the author. Not without a lot of messing about with buttons and arrows. Or maybe that's just me.

I've taken to not really caring - I pick a book, any book, from my 'To Be Read' list, and dive straight in. If I like it, I'll find out more about it, and the author, at the end.

If I love it, I'll write a review.

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), I loved The Forbidden Stories by Steve Silkin.

This book is a strange one. Strange in a good way, but difficult to define. When I first started to read it, I thought it was a collection of individual short stories, each one dealing with the minutiae of life - a brief glimpse of an attractive girl, the lovers who might have been, a dream within a dream within a dream, the grief of losing a parent - but as I read on, I realised that the stories knitted together. It's not a novel, but the stories connect in some way, even if it's just the smallest thing, and that keeps it interesting. It means you need to think, which is something I have found lacking in many pieces of writing I have come across lately.

The use of the first person to narrate the stories helps with the illusion that these snippets of life are pieces of one life. Maybe they are. But really I think they are many lives - perhaps each one is told by a different person. Perhaps each one is told by the same person. Trying to look through the words and into the mind of the narrator is part of the enjoyment of reading this book.

The writing itself is fluid and the prose is beautiful. The story "At Dad's Grave" was, I think, my favourite. It's a hard choice, but this vignette portrays the loss and emotion and confusion that comes with grief, and it has hope as well. It defines a life.

Here are a couple of lines from this most heart-wrenching/heart-warming of stories:

When she checked my documents she looked up at me with a glowing smile and said:
"Welcome home! Are you going to be staying in Boston for a while?"
"No, I'm flying to L.A."
"Oh well. Have a great time!"
My father's funeral was the next morning.

Greeted his old pals as they arrived. Then walked off to the side of the mortuary chapel. Sobbed and sobbed. Don't think I've ever been that sad. It was over, Dad and me. Never see him again. When that hits you, it's something.

More years came, more years went. Mom died. Buried her next to Dad on a cloudy day, light rain. No one at the funeral. Dad, are you there?

A beautiful book - please read it.


Friday, 1 February 2013

What Does It Mean? And Does It Matter?

In the picture above, there is, according to the artist, a witch, a panda bear, a frog, a snowman, the moon, and a bird.

I know this not because I can see these things, not because they are completely obvious, but because I asked the artist as she painted what she was doing. I asked her what she was creating.

She is called Alice, and she is two years old. She has a good grasp of language, enough to make herself understood most of the time, and so I know she meant what she said when she told me the list of things that are supposed to be found in those squiggles and swirls and blobs.

She didn't care that I didn't get it. She didn't care that her picture of a witch didn't look the same as the picture on the front of the book she loves to look through at bedtime. What mattered was that it was her witch (and panda bear and frog and snowman and moon and bird), that she had painted it, and that she liked it. Loved it. She was so pleased with the picture that she wanted it framed and hung on the wall. My husband and I - proud parents - dutifully did as we were asked.

Alice immersed herself in this painting. She dived in, paintbrush(es) in hand(s) to create her masterpiece. She enjoyed every second of it. And she wasn't thinking about who was going to see it or who was going to like it. She wasn't worried whether anyone would 'get it' or not. She made this art because she wanted to, because it was a thing inside her needing to get out.

It made me think, this total and utter love of the craft, of the art, rather than the need to be understood. Actually doing the thing, painting this picture, was more important to her than anything at that particular moment.

I wondered... shouldn't it be like that with writing? Should we really write to a formula just so that we're 'got' and liked and praised?

Since seeing Alice's picture - seeing it every day as it's hanging on our living room wall - I've decided that I don't want to worry about that any more. I will write what I want to write, and I will write it for me. If someone else likes it, that's wonderful. I really would be over the moon, on cloud nine, and all the other cliches you can throw at me. It would be fabulous.

But if I work to fit someone else's mould, I think the only thing that will happen is that I will lose the love of writing. It won't be fun anymore. It won't be me.

So I've decided; I won't be upset or offended should anyone ever ask me what my writing means. I don't think it matters, as long as I know.