Eric Ngalle Charles on how he writes poetry

‘I write then I revisit until I can relive the memory again exactly as I remember it.’

Eric Ngalle Charles is a Cameroonian born Wales based writer, poet and dramatist. He provides us with a vivid insight into his writing process and how memory inspires and informs his poetry.

‘I have little memory triggers. The other day I saw an insect with very tiny legs, it looked like it was doing press-ups on this huge tree, it took me back in time to when my mother first told me about the antics of the ‘’Molikilikili’’ (preying mantis) and the Ngo’le (millipede) as we sat around the fireside and the August rains pounded the thatch roof of our kitchen.

Two years after my daughter was born I wrote a poem ‘Playing with your white hair’ which was published in my first poetry anthology Between a Mountain and a Sea. As I plaited her hair, the memory carried me all the way to when I was 11 years old growing up in a place called Mundemba in Ndian Division, Cameroon. One of my chores was to search my brother in law’s head for white hair. He was like a father to me, ‘What greater love express from father to son than playing with your white hair’ is a line from the poem. I write then I revisit until I can relive the memory again exactly as I remember it.

I am fascinated by blindness as a metaphor. Ben Okri writes in his book, Famished Road, ‘We are all born blind, some chose to see, some chose to remain blind.’ James Baldwin takes it even further by asking ‘Can blindness be desired? What have those eyes seen to desire to see no more?’ In these post-truth times I guess as a poet we have the duty to ask, ponder this issue of blindness, do we allow the chaotic state of the world to continue? Shall we speak or shall we all retire into a hill in Abertawe. These are the kind of questions my mind asks, these are the things that trigger different memories.

Each poem is as unique as its author. When I was travelling from Swansea to LLandudno, the view, the mountains, the sea inspired Hiraeth, it reminded me so much of home that I wrote the poem ‘Between a Mountain and a Sea’ as a tribute to Wales and at the same time planning my homecoming.

Last but not least, I am fascinated by languages, if I hear people quarrelling, lovers holding hands and speaking, ‘my spirit craves, my mind wonders’ – I want to be under a tree and just drift.’

Eric’s poetry can be found in Poetry Wales volume 52.2 , Winter 2016 issue.

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