You may have noticed the news post about the Red Squirrel Press showcase at the Scottish Writers’ Centre next week. It’s a chance for those of us whose books came out during the pandemic to have a live launch and nine of us will be reading. At this point, I’m feeling the miss of William Bonar and Ruby McCann who should have been with us, but won’t, as they both died in 2022 – particularly grievous as they had so much wonderful poetry to share with us.
I am picking the poems for my set, and trying to get back to what I was thinking about when I wrote them. I was reminded of some of it at StAnza, where there were several poets writing and talking about grandmothers, and a good few poems about dissociation, both of which were triggers for the book, but it also included a lot of reflections about how we see the world and our relationship with it, our memories, so unreliable in one way, but so important and illuminating in others, and the nature of hope, and where we find it.
In Haggards I wrote about the world as ‘a web of speaking beings’, and, though The Well of the Moon is a more personal book than that, it built on and developed that concept. It’s one I got from Julia Kristeva, who used it to help children with mental health difficulties, particularly victims of abuse. She stressed the importance, to a person in difficulty, of being able to speak your truth, and know you are heard, and, through my own experience and that of members of my family, I have come to value this very much. But The Well of the Moon is also about something else. I believe a human person is not only a ‘speaking being’, but a ‘listening being’ – a being in dialogue.
Oh, world, my mirror,
my just-like-me, I know myself in you.
We are most when we are most connected,
when who we are, is who we listen to.
From Ma Semblable, Ma Soeur
Other things sneaked into it. There are more poems than I realised at the time about violence against women, and the particular wisdom of women, more about friendship, mental illness and grief, and there are a lot of poems about birds. I got a bit hung up about fire too, which was a pity, as we have since moved from a house with a coal fire I loved, to one without any fireplace at all. There are some translations, from Latin, Old English and Old Norse and a complicated poem about the rainbow which is really about the process of translation, and of course there are poems about plants and the garden.
How am I going to pick?