Listening to the undercurrents

Finding time to write poetry is a constant juggling act. I like to go into an internal, slow space. Life doesn’t allow that quiet space often. I’m always writing on the go, where and when I can grab a moment.

Going into the poetry zone is a meditative process of listening to the undercurrents – the thought-foxes [as Ted Hughes described them] that move through the undergrowth. I love this space. It gives me a feeling of being alive; an in-the-moment kind of space where the usual restrictive censorship doesn’t apply.

Getting there demands a certain degree of isolation; being free of interruption. I’ll sometimes use music to enhance the emotional connection I’m looking for. Finding imagery feels a bit like probing the body for memories that want/ need to be told. In writing over the past year or so the images have resonates from memories edged with a certain grief. I’m using the writing to work through childhood experience of psychosis. It’s been a long road… one that keeps returning; moving into focus, no-matter how hard I work to avoid it.

Disparate strands are played out as words find themselves on the computer screen. For example there was a phase in my youth, when I never knew who I’d see, staring back at me, when I looked in the mirror. There was something hypnotic about the way the face would morph from one image to another.

In a poem [still very much in draft], I’ve been playing with a series of memories. In the poem I’m trying to say something about the way that grief embeds itself. Some things we don’t ever ‘get over’ – and the mirror that refuses to look back is an expression of the extent the mind/ body will go to, to bring denial into our consciousness, so we can cope, get on with our lives, possibly? The poem begs a question, about why? Is it that the mirror can’t bear to reflect? Or that the person who is doing the looking refuses to see? It is also possibly a comment on the struggle to come to terms with mortality.

I’m not sure if it’s complete. If it says everything I want it to say? Perhaps reflecting back on having written this will help me decide.

The Mirror that wouldn’t look back
She had been shelling peas, neatly
into a tupperware bowl; pretending not to be,
when mothers’ blanket slipped.

Sleep never came easily;
interrupted by the nightly carnival, playing
in dirty yellow light at the top of the stairs,
just beyond reach of her bedroom door.

A robber in striped jumper and eye mask
hovered with a bag marked ‘swag’
big enough to take a whole life away.

And once, a lion with a full mane lingered
on the same spot, at the foot of slumber,
threatening to wake the house with a roar.

When terror turned the twilight corner
made a home in a cupboard for the damned
even the wall mirror refused to look back.

About Knitting Time: art and poetry on the theme of psychosis

'Knitting Time: a journey through loss' is a poetry and visual arts project reflecting on the theme of art and psychosis. A book and exhibition of the work is due to be launched at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex on 10 October 2013 to celebrate World Mental Health Day. During this research and development phase I want to gather responses, thoughts, recollections and comments, so please fill in my surveymonkey at and add your let me know what you think? Or feel free to email me via knitting-time [at]
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