Having filled in a routine form at work the other week I said “but you know I’m a writer. “
“Do you earn a living from it?”
“No. I don’t even earn my expenses”.
“Then it is a hobby. It doesn’t count.”
It has taken me decades to accept that writing poetry will always be a hobby rather than my work. When I was young I thought I could work as a poet. I did once work as a freelance writer, but failed to cover the rent.
However, when I see my work in print -three poems and my name – as in Issue 6 of The Lonely Crowd then I feel that I am a poet. There are my words on the pristine white pages and that sharp newness of print. My grandfather was a printer and those occasional visits to his place of work, where the noisy machines were creating from the compositor’s words, were exciting. I have been known to visit bookshops just to inhale that uniqueness of paper and print.
My ideas usually start with the visual. I would have loved to have studied art, but at school art ‘O’ level wasn’t for the academic stream. Then at a different school for 6th form, art was only an ‘A’ level option if you had done ‘O’ level art.
When I can afford it I’ll be found on a writing course, where for a few days I am a writer. My three poems in The Lonely Crowd were started on a writing course in a room that wasn’t my own. A room that was uncluttered of my life and commitments. When I took my pen to the paper I was painting. All three poems start with the visual and develop from the world I see around me. ‘Green Man Running’ was sparked by an exit sign. It was written in tercets as the poem moved that way with the repetition of the line ‘the ticking noise that isn’t a clock.’ ‘T Rex’ was inspired by a plastic toy dinosaur given as a prompt. The Grey Road Passes Through was inspired by a view. They probably wouldn’t have been written without the writing course, and certainly not as they are. Often I find that things I’ve been thinking about have the time to surface when I’m given a writing prompt and the space to write. It is only later that the poem reveals its completeness, often after it is published which could be years later. An editor often sees the neatness of the layering which the poet often wrote without being conscious of it. That is why it is good to put poems to one side and come back to them later, and see them from a different perspective.
I like to write with pen and paper, and then if I think I have something I put it on the computer. I have to print out to correct and edit because I find it too difficult on screen.
When I go off on a writing course or attend a class I feel I am being the writer I thought I would be. Ideas and words merge in the air, and the opportunity to write unfolds. I’m able to develop my scribblings (not that I like that word, but my handwriting is a scrawl) into something more polished.
Of course, poems need to be re-drafted many times and polished. Some stay as scribblings, even after they are typed up and tidied. However, they are like an artist’s sketch book; the pen and ink inspiration that might have the potential to be developed.
I like to go to exhibitions and love colour. The works of Glenys Cour, Shani Rhys James and Mary Lloyd Jones are so inspiring. Their colours are almost words they are so vibrant. Paint has its own smell, which is akin to print.
I often think back to when I learnt to write the individual letters of the alphabet, and how hard that was. Now the letters merge in my untidy scrawl to capture moments and epiphanies. I often take my camera out with me as “a picture is worth a thousand words” – just to hold the fleeting moment of sunrise or sunset, the tones of a flower, or the magnificence of a tree.
In my writing the visual image is usually the starting point. The idea that makes me want to put pen to paper. I try to find the texture of ideas, the sense of what I want to convey. If I could paint well enough I probably wouldn’t write, but my painting struggles to find perspective and fit on the page in a coherent way. It is still at that early handwriting stage where every character is difficult.
I can’t remember a time I didn’t write. My first published poem was when I was eight, it was about trees. As I grew up my writing got pushed to the side, and after university it took a long time for it to re-surface. Back then there weren’t creative writing departments in universities. So, opening The Lonely Crowd and seeing my work published in such a beautiful book is wonderful, an ego boost.
Sue Moules has been published widely in literary magazines including Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review, Planet, Ambit, The North, Orbis and Roundyhouse. Her work has also appeared in many anthologies: On My Life (Honno), Exchanges (Honno) , Poetry Wales 25 Years (Seren),The Ground Beneath Her Feet (Cinnamon),The Voice of Women in Wales (Wales Women’s Coalition), Of Cake and Words (Cledlyn), A Star Fell From Orion (Peter, Bridge and Stephen),and Poetry From Strata Florida.
She has published three poetry collections: The Moth Box (Parthian), In The Green Seascape (Lapwing), and The Earth Singing (Lapwing). She also published a joint collection Mirror Image (Headland). She is a member of the poetry performance group Red Heron.
You can read three poems by Sue in Issue Six of The Lonely Crowd, which may be purchased here.
Copyright © Sue Moules, 2017. Banner image © Jo Mazelis, 2017.