It was the first week of September 1976, I had just started in the Sixth Form at my London comprehensive. I still remember my keen anticipation as I walked down Wembley High Road to equip myself for this new adventure. The chunky mug i bought in Bargain Basement, a light pearly brown, softly metallic, with – I think – a sketch of Abraham Lincoln on one side, and some of his most quotable quotes on the other. Then to Marks & Spencer for a packet of Dark Chocolate Ginger Biscuits, to add to my writerly survival kit.
I could see myself already inhabiting the Sixth Form ‘cafe’, half-curled in an armchair there, drainpipe jeans and a loose shirt, deeply absorbed in my work, sipping occasionally from my mug, nibbling a ginger biscuit without looking up.
I was 16 going on 17 and I wanted, everything. I took the stairs at Alperton Tube station three at a time, released from a dark and fearful family life, galloping into my bright future. Me the Writer, the Poet, the Actress, the PR Person. My ignorance and arrogance were not even measured against anything, I lived in my own world and every door was open to me.
Many years later, I glimpse this avid girl as I sit in a sunny corner of my living room far in time and space from England, laptop balanced on my knees, poetry coursework and books strewn on the little table in front of me. I am fighting a strong sense of futility, a sneering voice that says you again, poetry this time? Too little, too late. Pointless and purposeless. Down the years there have been many handsome mugs, fresh notebooks, new pens and cunning bags to put them in – yet I did not break through, I did not create a growing sense of my voice, a body of work, win any awards, make any waves.
Yes, I have written for money, for business, since 1993. I studied for my degree and got first class honours in Literature and creative writing. But except for short periods, I never really got the discipline of keeping a notebook, of shaping and sharing my thoughts. Now I come to writing half-ashamed, self-conscious and full of derision at trying again, unsure why I am doing this poetry course. Perhaps to prove once for all that talent is not enough, even discipline is not enough – you have to feel compelled to write every day, even if no-one will see it. And I don’t feel that.
Just that I believe there is treasure there if I can find it. Reading, writing and thinking about poetry – enough lifetime left to love it if I can break through and let it speak to me, speak for me.