I’ve had almost a fortnight off work, and I’ve spent much of that time in the library (conveniently located in one of Newcastle’s two restaurant- and coffee-shop-dominated streets), writing. I’m working on a book – the ship’s pretty much sailed on keeping my big scary secret (me? a book? who do I think I’m kidding?) to myself, so I may as well announce it here. I’m writing a book, a poetry book about violence, healing and recovery – death, mourning and resurrection – and I’ve spent a great deal of time with the book on what has essentially been a working holiday.
I’ve loved it, (almost) every minute of it – plunging my thoughts, my heart, my soul into words, playing with them, selecting sounds and phrases, savouring the taste of them in my mouth and the feeling of the pen in my hand, my entire world reduced to the contents of a pink ColourHide notebook and the volume of ink in my pen. Even the air of the library – the hum of minds moving – is different to the air anywhere else. Two weeks of work, and my mind is nourished.
It’s been hard too, though – because I’m writing about some of the most harrowing experiences of my life. I’m writing about assaults, fear, the betrayals I was forced to commit, the loneliness of life when that life is dominated by violence. I’m writing about the sickening, terrifying shame of panic attacks, and those small horrible triggers – meaningless to anyone who isn’t me – which set them off. I’m writing, calmly and mindfully, about my own rape. And I’m deliberately doing it using the most descriptive language possible. No more laconic line-sketched diagrams of what happened; this writing’s in colour, emotion and violence and bloody terror spread out across a neat blue-ruled page.
Because I can’t talk about this stuff. The word “rape” still sticks in my throat, right between my collarbones where tension often tightens the muscles to a chokehold. Even with friends – close friends, friends who I trust, who I’ve trusted in the dangerous past with secrets that literally could have killed me. Talking is hard, almost impossible. But I can write. I can write about rape, about betrayals, about the timbre of fear coming home every evening to the volatile unknown. I can write what I can’t talk about.
It’s not enough, not quite. This stuff needs to be talked about; these stories are ready to be told. I’m not sure how yet, and I’m not sure how I’ll make the opportunity. But forming these narratives into poetry, sculpting them with my beloved words, each one lovingly selected, and knowing that they will see the eyes of readers – that’s a pretty bloody good start.
Pretty bloody good start, she writes. Can you tell I’m a poet?