Tigress was published in July last year by Nine Arches Press. I came out as a poet to people in my work sphere last month when Tigress got reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement. It was a good review that raised the question of colonialism for me. The reviewer, Stephanie Sy-Quia noted my use of the word ‘immigrant’. I used the word in the poem ‘The Welsh House’ not as the word ‘migrant’ but in the sense of something coming into you, inhabiting you from the outside. But I can see the meshed consequence of the word. Now I get the occasional eyebrow raise in the council, where I work on suicide prevention and mental well being, but other then that life goes on. The TLS review used the great term ‘Immigrant Gothic’ – which given my music tastes – I will happily own.
I went on holiday with my father. Its him in the picture, defiantly standing in front of some Spanish graffiti that says “I want to change but capitalism won’t let me”. In a family as fragmented and torn as mine hanging out with my dad for a week was no mean feet. I hadn’t spent that long alone in his company since I was 21. That was a long time ago. Facebook kept me somewhat sane. Oversharing and getting support from many who empathised at the strained family dynamics and love that expresses in bizarre ways and fragmented anecdotes from times we will never know, histories that disappear as parents age, seemed helpful. These are shared experiences. Feel free to send me a friend request on facebook, its a way I have of keeping a record of my free floating thoughts, connecting with people and creating a fantasy world we can all play in relatively safely. Relatively safely.
On holiday my father told me a story about when he was a boy, about six years old, he was walking with his father in Chittagong during the famine. He saw his friend, a little boy, maybe a little older then him. The boy lay dead in the street, flies starting their work on flesh and a body starting to bloat. The boy, my father was then, began to cry and was confused that only the day before he had been playing marbles with the lad. His father urged him forward, don’t cry, this is the way life is, he told his son. My father grew up in a world I can never know. A world I do not know.
When I was a child (in the 1980s) watching the news with my father, news of the miners strikes in Wales, or more job cuts and media-blaming of brown and black people, I would say – Its not fair, it’s just not fair. Hoping that my father would agree. He would snap back there is nothing fair in life, don’t expect it. It would enrage me.
On holiday with my father I read The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. It is a book that distills all the most up to date information and science on climate catastrophe. It is a sobering read. When I told my 83 year old father – he smiled and said he would like to live another 30 years to see the world burn and sink. He’s not an easy man.
I went to the brilliant Poet’s for the Planet event organised by Jacquie Saphra and others and heard the howls and beautiful cries of poets in response to this changing world. It’s not fair is it? It’s not fair that I wear cheep clothes from china and drive around in my car while my cousins in Bangladesh see refugees on their beach and watch their cities drown.
Recently I had an article published in Wasafiri, an excellent journal of international contemporary writing where I pondered the impact of Brexit and asked why more people were not engaged in conversations about colonialism. I really don’t know what people who voted for Brexit think about colonialism – or the impact it has on their vote or on my vote, or anyones vote. Should I start asking?
Why was there a famine in Bangladesh in the 1930s? It led me to look into the Irish Potato Famine – why did that happen? What led people to eat worms and grass and each other? I have such knowledgeable facebook friends. Those descendants of Irish migrants had much to teach me and many poets to share with me.
The Art of Empire by Eavan Boland (From A Woman Without a Country: Carcanet)
If no one in my family ever spoke of it, if no one handed down what it was to be born to power and married in a poor country. If no one wanted to remember the noise of the redcoats cantering in lanes bleached with apple flowers on an April morning. If no one ever mentioned how a woman was, what she did, what she never did again, when she lived in a dying Empire. If what was not said was never seen If what was never seen could not be known think of this as the only way an empire could recede – taking its laws, its horses and its lordly all, leaving a single art to be learned, and one that required neither a silversmith nor a glassblower but a woman skilled in a sort of silence that lets her stitch shadow flowers into linen with pastel silks who never looks up to remark on or remember why it is the bird in her blackwork is warning her: not a word not a word not a word not a word