Thursday, 29 October 2015

The ghost of a writer faces her fear

Photo by @robselfpierson 

That's me, reading my poem, 'Unknown Matron's Mallet' in the Foundling Museum last Sunday as part of a special torchlit evening with the writers' group 26.

Poets were dotted all through the museum, each of us reading a work inspired by an object there. I was almost last on the tour so I spent a while waiting in the semi-dark, surrounded by the names of long-dead foundling children and the tiny tokens their mothers left with them.

It wasn't spooky, though if there are ghosts in this world there must surely be many in Joseph Coram's hospital. I used to be terrified of ghosts - I wouldn't go into churchyards, lay awake dreading the arrival of the owner of the hand I could clearly see creeping over my windowsill, and knew, absolutely that the gatehouse of the house where I lodged in my early 20s was haunted by someone or something deeply unfriendly.

But my fear of ghosts seems to have faded. Have I become more rational? I'm not sure I have. Perhaps I'm naming my fears these days, facing them in my writing? I know that writing without fear doesn't work for me. If I'm comfortable with the people or themes I'm writing about, I'm bored and the story dies on its feet. I need not to understand, to want to know more, and to be just a bit afraid.