‘I think With Such Caution is alive, raw in its emotional reach, finely polished in its language, and has a universal relevance.’ A.J.
My hundred or so notebooks have served through the decades as my best friends, my confidantes, my research assistants and my counsellors. In this way this Lockdown Year has given me the space to survey my notebooks, harvesting short pieces which – I discovered – had captured a range of universal truths about my life as though they were butterflies in a net. So I have spent this fallow time exploring these harvested pieces and moulding, editing and refining them to the point where they have revealed true elements of my whole - pretty long - life.
So these poems are pure glimpses of a long life - some glimpses recalled again 30 or 40 years later; most of them written on the cusp of the events that inspired them, to be revisited during this fallow year and re-interpreted as I reflected on them afresh.
‘I think your voice is one of the collection's great strengths, I hear it speak clearly and candidly throughout and, among other things, it sounds frank, intelligent, intellectually curious, honest, questioning, hurt, warm, amused, reflective, probing and combative. It is a great idea also to include footnotes which add another aspect or layer of voice as if you are speaking directly to the reader.’ DM.
And now I have moved on to the complex process of publishing this collection - a very different process from from the more familiar tasks of writing and editing my own work. Here was a very different category of decision-making. Readers of this blog wilI know that I have embraced this new publishing process several times before but it is never easy. It is so much more challenging, in my view, than actually writing my long novels (see list on the right) which were published by mainstream publishers.
‘I am wholly convinced of the value of short pieces/ poetry as memoir. It is every bit as much, as authentic and true, as any prose account and there are ways in which it gets beneath the skin of a life to the deep self - in a way - to the soul. AJ.)
One important decision was the title: after much head-wrangling I decided it would be With Such Caution - borrowing the title from one of the pieces in the collection:
In her early life, timid and shy,
she pre-empted risks by keeping
her horizons low and her head
bent down over her books.
‘With Such Caution is a perfect title choice. As a title poem it gets to the heart of the shy, timid, girl that haunts you still. She is alive in these pages, Wendy, we feel her caution, her apprehensions and fears’ AJ.
Then there was the decision about the cover – very important, as I know, to engage potential readers.
My collaborator in this part of the process was the talented designer Kate Hall of Kate Hall Design, who worked her special magic on my concept of the book and developed exactly my dream cover. This image too - like the title - begins with a little shy girl who would always be a writer. Take a look.
If you get hold of the book you will realise that this is not a conventional memoir. You will notice that the poems are not set out in here in autobiographical time. Rather they are inspired by my feelings about the pieces in the present time, as I have edited them and put them in order for this special collection. Perhaps you could say the ordering constitutes a glimpse of my state of mind in the present day while I have been working on this collection.
‘I like so much that you haven’t chosen a linear path - I think when we reflect on our lives we do so in myriad images and scattered memories. I suppose I’m saying that your chosen form mimics the process of remembering…’ AJ.
Inevitably members of my family have roles to play in this collection, albeit seen through the veil of my selective memory and my idiosyncratic emotional perceptions. I have already posted on this blog one of the poems featuring my mother, Barbara. (Scroll down...And now the poem at the end is this pieces focuses on Billy, my father. I thought you might like it as is just one illustration much of what I have tried to say here.
'... there is a creative unity which is an important part of your authentic writer’s voice, aligned as it is with your refusal to be confined or limited by genre or received wisdom - something of course which is underscored in the collection in poems such as Outsiderness, With Such Caution’and ‘Different Worlds.' DM.
I very much hope you enjoy reading With Such Caution and perhaps reflect on your own lives, And I hope the writers among you will be inspired to survey their own notebooks for similar inspiration.
I am pleased to day that With Such Caution is available now in paperback and ln Kindle on Amazon HERE
Billy: A Daughter’s Tale
long fingers poking inside my hand-knitted sleeve.
Remember the nights she left the house for work?
You sat and read the paper as I scaled your knee
settling, birdlike, into that rustling space.
Remember how we cut out pictures
and pasted them into the Panjandrum book?
Remember how you read us stories -
your voice going up and down
like the waves of the sea?
So very sorry you don’t know my youngest –
like you he’s highly numerate - you
did not see him standing tall for Tai Kwan Do
(white clad and obliquely oriental)
or cricket-ready, complete with pads
and helmet and faceguard protection.
It’s a lifetime since I passed your dying age
of thirty seven. And now I contemplate
how very young you were when
you abandoned your life and mine,
when - to my nine-year self - you seemed eternal.
It has taken two generations
between then and now for me
to ventilate the retrospective pain
of losing you too soon.
Note :My father died when I was nine and I see now that our relationship was the template for my whole life.