Interview by Zoë Brigley
Upon reflection, I took [inspiration for a verse] from one of those sonic memories that we all have buried deep in our neurological pathways. I think I use them a lot in my writing.
I remember the day our whole house came on its period, including the men who were terrified and thought they were hallucinating or dying. The children cried as we waited for the bus to the out-of-town shopping centre, where we picked up supplies: fresh sets of underwear, multi-packs of chocolate bars, sanitary items in abundance. When we returned we watched a documentary on the Apocalypse and agreed how lucky we were not to be living in end times, then we lit a fire and made shadow puppets against the walls. Amen. Today is the day that the sun bleeds rain as we climb to the roof and check the solar panels for signs of intelligent life. We will tend to the horses and swap them for chickens when the sun goes down as we watch marsh-mallow soldiers waving their blue silk flags to the hills. The children tap on their tin drum under spidery stars and an infomercial plays through the night, telling us all how lucky we are, how lucky, how lucky we are. Amen.
This poem was sent in response to a call for poems on possible future, but here the future seems very ominous, apocalyptic even. What inspired the poem to begin with? There is very nimble sense of humor in the voice speaking, as it comments ironically on the beliefs of this future community, the thanks given for what seems to be a dubious way of living. Is an ironic voice like this something that comes to you spontaneously or does it have to crafted over different drafts?
I started thinking about the poem, and therefore beginning the writing of it, in a time of change – electoral change, political change in the UK, Europe and the US. I remember having a conversation with someone who said to me that whatever change takes place, progress can’t be pushed backwards. I thought about this comment a lot, and fundamentally, I disagree with it. Progress can row backwards. Look at the position of women in Afghanistan right now, for example. So, that’s what I was thinking about and on top of that, I found the idea of trying to depict a dystopia in a poem quite a fun challenge. So, that’s what I decided to try and do.
The sardonic thanks given at the end actually came with me considering the rhythm of the piece. I wanted something sing-songy and childish, rather like a nursery rhyme. Something that cut against the setting and the subject matter to create a dissonance. Upon reflection, I took it from one of those sonic memories that we all have buried deep in our neurological pathways. I think I use them a lot in my writing. The lines mimic the rhythm of Edward Lear’s ‘The Owl and the Pussy-Cat’:
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!