I Miss…

Over at dVerse Poets Pub, Mary is tending the bar and asking us to write poems in answer to the question: ‘WHO or WHAT do you miss?’

I miss… understanding (between people). We are too quick to judge, to criticise, to retort, to ban. However, the poem below took me in a different, unexpected direction, although it started with a lack of understanding…

From pbs.org

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

His head contains worlds.

People pop out to smoke cigarettes

simper, gossip, screw and pray

maggotty ideas fester – let them die –

voices assault us daily.

What is real he no longer can say.

He’s tried to flirt with mainstream

but his world stays out of kilter

at an angle only he can measure

drumming beats no one will follow

there is no shared vision

how we wish we could belong.


Come inside the head, ladies and gents!

Pause, admire, discover

underneath he’s much like you

a gentler man of erudite barbs

one read and you’ll be captivated

I know he’s worked so hard for this:

How can I make you know too?

Glass Fishbowl

Construction siteI sit dainty at my table,

Plate and finger poised just so,

When I notice workmen pausing.

From across the mud-drenched garden,

They lift their bottles, put down baguettes,

And contemplate this middle-aged white woman

In a house far too big, eating alone.

Their wave of raw appraisal hits in fluxes,

Till I rush to close the shutters, hide

My morsels in the dark.


fishbowlSo the pebbles clatter roundly

To fill the base of your fishbowl,

Stinging scarlet your scales of gold.

Disapproved, disproved, smirked at,

The woman sits and scribbles wildly,

While we pile our judgements up in mounds.

Ragamuffin she seeks flotsam

Debris of a human life

To make up stories

No one wants to read at all.

Inspired by the workmen, crane and building site just opposite my living room and study. Noise, dust and curious eyes have accompanied me for a few weeks now… I am almost hoping for REALLY bad weather, so that they have to stop work. [The last 3 days of pouring rain were not enough to dampen their enthusiasm.] They are not there now, it’s the sacred French lunch break.



Does Your Message Get Across?

No, don’t worry, I am not going to go all day-job on you and subject you to one of my training courses.  But, while I was doing a lot of training and no writing last week, one thing struck me quite forcibly.

How many times I explained an exercise or a concept with what seemed to me limpid clarity… only to have the participants ask questions which made it equally clear that my message had been misunderstood.  At least in a training room, you usually get immediate feedback and can rephrase, reformulate, explain.  Even mime your message, if all else fails.

What can you do in writing, however?  It got me thinking about all the times I had written a story or a poem, and it became obvious from people’s reactions to it that I had not managed to convey what was in my head and heart. Luckily, when you post a poem online, you get a few valuable comments from readers, which show you what has been understood, how things are perceived, what bits are most impactful.  The Like button is sweet stroking for the ego, but not quite as helpful in this regard (and yes, I admit, I use it myself when I am pressed for time, but want to show that I have read the poem or story).

Perhaps that doesn’t matter in a poem, which is the original onion amongst the writing genres anyway.

Most of the time, however, in traditional publishing, you do not get an immediate reaction.  You hear from an agent or an editor or a critic – from the professionals, very seldom from the readers who are neither friends nor family. Does this have an impact on your writing?  Should it have an impact? Should you test out your ‘new material’ in a writing group, for instance?  Or should you just ignore what people say and go ahead and write regardless?

I am not quite sure I have cracked the answer to this one for myself.  I would love to hear your thoughts on it.  What I do know is that famous George Bernard Shaw quote: ‘The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’

And, in case you are wondering what my message is in all of this, it’s that I love, love, love your comments and that I welcome your criticism, because it helps me to improve my writing.