On Finding Ways Out / Kate North

Two of my poems published in Issue Nine of The Lonely Crowd (May 2018) came from my collection The Way Out launched in October 2018. ‘Paris, December 25th’ and ‘Mount Ainos’ are both poems about journeys. The entire collection is structured as a journey in three separate parts; In, Through and Out. The journey leads to an ending that is also a point of departure, encouraging the reader to determine their own direction on from the text. Through the course of the journey I explore notions of choice in a variety of ways. Several poems concentrate on the body as a location and in these I explore the physiological and cultural understandings of specific organs. I investigate the failings of the body through illness and I contemplate how we do and do not have autonomy over our physical selves. In turn, illness can inform who we are and who we become.  Similarly, other factors remove or inform life choices, such as the families we are born into, our socio-economic backgrounds and the relationships we form. I am interested in the consequences of the choices we make in relation to these realities.In my Paris poem I recall a Christmas day spent in Paris with my wife. Although I had been to Paris many times before, I had never been at Christmas time. One of the things I did not expect was the hustle and bustle of activity on the Champs-Élysée and down towards the Seine. Christmas was still very present and happening, the chestnut and mulled wine sellers were out in force, there had been midnight carols at Notre Dame. But the energy of the crowds, the busy shops and bars open on Christmas morning, pick-pockets being arrested and the city generally going about its business as usual had the feeling of an extra day being gifted to us unexpectedly, a day in which anything could happen, a day that ended in a boat trip;

under the tower

all smiles and snap

then down the ramp

to the boat,

            the water and off

In ‘Mount Ainos’ a different journey happens, as a consequence of a not so smart choice. Ainos is the mountain in the middle of Kefalonia, an Ionian island my paternal grandfather is from. On a trip there several years ago with my father we decided to climb Ainos on a whim, ill-equipped and in raging heat without even a bottle of water.  It was stupid really, and we realised it half way through but pressed on stubbornly. Nature had the last laugh as when we got to the summit;

We looked into the haze,

could not see Zakynthos,

Ithaca, Lefkada

It was as though the gods had chosen to punish us for our stupidity by blocking the view with fog.

There are other decisions made and choices offered in the collection, the woman who decides to remove her headscarf, and wheel her car into a lake, the addict who decides upon another hit. There are also other journeys from Sweden to Tunisia to my local park. And what I was really trying to find out through the writing of the collection is, wherever you find yourself, wherever you are from, how do you decide whether to;

… see the world

in monochrome or technicolor;

choose to deseed the chilli or not.

                            (from ‘Entrances’ in The Way Out)


Issue Nine of The Lonely Crowd may be purchased here. The Way Out is available from Parthian Books.

Kate North was born in Glasgow in 1978 and moved to her family hometown of Cardiff soon after. She studied English in Aberystwyth (BA) then Creative Writing in East Anglia (MA) and Cardiff (PhD). Kate is currently the Programme Director of the MA English Literature and Creative Writing pathways at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Her latest poetry collection is The Way Out (Parthian, 2018). She has previously published a novel, Eva Shell (Cinnamon Press, 2008) and a poetry collection Bistro (Cinnamon Press, 2012).

© Kate North, 2018.

Image: Kate North reading at the Cardiff launch of Issue Nine of The Lonely Crowd © Michou Burckett St. Laurent, 2018.