by SL Acton
I still write fiction.
I’ve completed a draft Children’s novel and I’m mid-way between two unfinished literary novels. These are ongoing ongoing…but I fell into writing poetry in a serious way when we moved house 15 months ago. By serious I mean that since then, and now, I consider myself a poet. I attend open mic performance poetry nights and I’ve self-published two of three ‘year in the life’ poetry pamphlets inspired by my connection with the coastal landscape.
We moved house in February 2015, and in doing so we moved landscape. My partner and I exchanged inner-city lives in Bristol for village life on the Jurassic coastline in East Devon. It’s a large village, but culturally far from where we had been. When we moved the view and weather was grey and bleak for months, I was exhausted by the move and job hunting. The village seemed dark and empty and so quiet on those long winter nights.
We moved because I longed for the sea, no other reason. It was a deep life-long yearning almost like the ancient feeling of hiraeth, a homesickness for somewhere that perhaps no longer exists or never was.
So Dan and I gave up our jobs and house, and came to live with family, all of our belongings in storage. By May, the exhaustion had subsided and the jet lag and stress of the move dissolved. I found a day job, and started waking early to the sound of the sea and sat outside for a few hours before work each day. It became part of my day, and soon the better part. The bench at the house where we were staying was surrounded by a semi-circle of lavender bushes, the sea beyond these. The bees came to the lavender, so many types of bee, and the drone, and my regular morning vigil in the mellow early sun naturally became an intense two hour writing session most days.
What emerged were hundreds of poems. If I didn’t write first thing I wrote in my lunch hour, running down to the beach with my note pad and pen. It has been a primitive need to write and experiment with poetry ever since.
Some new energy was filling up inside me, eager to be written. I had no idea it would be poetry, but I often enjoy giving myself over to whatever energy force the ink flows with. I surprised myself. The poetry started out so raw, and is still limited technically, but I love the poetry writing process, and I’m definitely finding how to be more truthful, authentic and to tell a story with different language and form.
It helps that my subject matter is part of the air I breathe. I am attuning myself to the coastline surroundings, getting passionate about geology, local myth and going deeper with my feet in the sand beneath the shingle shore. This is my land. I was not born here but I was born to write poems here.
The interesting element to this purple patch is that I was, and am, writing in manuscript, and still find now that because I’m in front of a screen at work, I write on a pad by hand, with ink if possible. I type up later drafts and edit on screen. But my poems form with the feel and flow of ink on paper, my connection with my senses, the context, the sea colour in the distance, the clear view of almost 30 miles across the horizon are all written into the lines. I breathe the sea salt and watch the sea as endlessly as I can. It is the language of the place that I am experiencing. I could not write these poems inside the house in front of my laptop, where I am now.
We finally moved house to our own place at the back of the village this month. I can’t see the sea, or hear it at night, but it is just beyond a hill of green fields. I am still walking the land and coast path regularly as part of my dietary requirement. I plan to visit bee corner next month in order to complete my third poetry collection in the Ammonite: Poems from the Cliffside series. I am grateful we took the plunge and moved from the city, though life is quiet day to day.
The next challenge is to improve technique whilst maintaining a fresh view of the sights and smells of this land that shook my heart and called me here.
I remind myself that it is always important as a writer to be true, to take risks, to literally abandon time to the flow of the ink pen without censorship, and above all, give ourselves enough regular time for our real creative selves to find original form on the blank page. It is wonderful to be surprised, but even surprises take the patience of slow bee-lavender-growth to reveal themselves. Who knows what else may lie in store?