Writing ‘Summer’ and ‘Victims’ / Natalie Crick

Natalie Crick discusses the writing process behind her poems in Issue Eleven of The Lonely Crowd.

In my poetry I tend to write about lonely places with stark, bleak qualities and most importantly a sense of abandonment. Such places are usually houses or rural farming land, with hints of desertion and decay pervading each stanza. The characters in my poems experience solitary and often unpleasant existences reflecting the isolated and barren places in which they reside.

Upon beginning to write, I initially found it challenging to create innovative ideas for imagery on this subject, having always lived in thriving urban environments. I searched for artwork and imagery to generate thoughts and inspiration as a prompt for my writing and was intrigued by the work of Scottish painter, Peter Doig. I was fascinated by the relationship between solitary life and the ‘numbness’ which seems to seeps from Doig’s paintings of strange, unsettling places.

In writing ‘Summer’, I was also interested by Ocean Vuong’s couplet structure in his poem, ‘Threshold’. I gave ‘Summer’ a very similar form. In ‘Summer’ I tried to create a sense of flow and relentless rhythm and pace between stanzas whilst commenting on the reclusive existence of the narrator in the uncomfortable summer heat.

Although ‘Summer’ is essentially about ‘the rasp of the loss’, the setting of an abandoned house is in-keeping with the idea of ‘poetry of place’, such places are essentially engaged with displacement and desertion. Poets themselves can often be traced back to particular dwellings that they call home, but in their work they often refer to new places, actual and imaginary, which complicates the idea of ‘poetry of place’, if ‘poetry of place’ is indeed about one’s origins. The characters in my poems are often victims of neglect or abuse and are left to reside in environments just as stark as their own lives.

Like ‘Summer’, ‘Victims’ is a poem about loss; the subject of the poem is a young girl’s murder. During a recent trip to l’Eglise Sainte Marie in Sartene, Corsica, I saw the wooden cross, heavy chains and hooded cloak still used every Good Friday, when an incognito penitent walks the u catenacciu procession to recreate Christ’s journey to Golgotha.

Inspired by what I saw, I read Dorothy Carrington’s books The Dream-Hunters of Corsica and Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica. I learned that, in traditional Corsican culture, the poetic expression of loss was a crucial part of life.

The specifically female role of the voceratrice was to recite a poem over the body in the presence of hundreds of mourners, to a rhythmic, drumming beat. The emotive words of the poem were designed to capture the deepest feelings of the mourners in one powerful voice.

I wanted to translate the essence of the compelling voice of the voceratrice into my own poetry to give the verse an emotional authority, or a charge of significance. In ‘Victims’ the narrator insists that ‘the quiet will drum a name, listen’, echoing the resounding beat of the drum used by the Corsican people during a ceremony.

The dead characters in my poems are rarely given voices of their own, but manifest themselves in dream and spirit beyond the restrictions of death and its devastating irrevocability.

Natalie Crick has poetry published or forthcoming in a range of journals in the UK including  Interpreters House, Poetry Scotland, The Shop, Bare Fiction, Pennine Platform, Anima, The High Window, Southlight, London Grip, Dawntreader, Seventh Quarry and The Journal. She is studying for an MA in Writing Poetry at Newcastle University and is currently taught by Tara Bergin and Jacob Polley. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice. 

Image by Jo Mazelis.