Writing from Memory and Life

Memory and experience are fertile places for writers.

I always think the stories and poems we react most strongly to are the ones that strike a chord of empathy or understanding, because we have experienced similar things or thoughts ourselves.

memoryandlifepin3One of my favourite poems is Originally, by Carol Ann Duffy and One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop. Both these poems look at loss – of things, of places, of people – and at change, but from very different perspectives. Which is another thing I love about poems and stories – the ability to get a glimpse of other lives for a moment, to get a sense of what other people feel and experience, which gives us a bigger view of the world, and lets us know we aren’t the only ones who feel how we feel.

This is another poem that I wrote years ago, and has had both a recent rejuvenation, and recent publication, in the summer issue of the NZPS magazine, a fine line



This place is so big it doesn’t diminish with age
– shrinks me to the smallness of six
think I can outstare the sun

Eyes bleed a kaleidoscope
my fingers sweat

This place is so big it understands savannah
explains it in words of one syllable
hot – dry – wide –

I shed my family here once
– hidden in a tangle of blackberry
I tasted the syllables of orphan
until I heard my name
called by my mother’s mouth

Now I know refugee

My tongue learned to ache
with the weight of not talking
My ears untangled speech of a new flavour
– syllables thin and tart as unripe blackberry

This place is so big, I hope there’s space
for an adult orphan coming back
with a whisper of home
on her tongue
but no key in her pocket



20 thoughts on “Writing from Memory and Life

  1. Food and smells can also trigger the same kinds of memories, and we are easily drawn to those as well as writing that speaks to us. I’ve always found it fascinating what triggers understanding and memories for us. Especially when it is some long lost memory tucked away in a deep dark corner of our mind that we wouldn’t have even thought of if it were not for that writing. I read a book recently and it did that for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love your writing! Orphan is a really beautiful piece – the last couple of lines are especially moving. One Art by Elizabeth Bishop is really beautiful too, and wonderfully poignant

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Poetry is such a beautiful way to look at the world through a different set of eyes. It’s a great way to reframe the way that we look at our lives and the experiences that we face from day to day. Especially if we find ourselves caught up in our emotions as we often do in times of loss. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Whenever I read your writings it reminds me that I need to push harder. To me, poetry is like being able to write a good song as a musician and I’ve been trying to do that for 40 years. The ability to paint a picture with words that put you smack dab in the middle. Great job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Scott – yeh, it is like songwriting – although that’s a skill I’m not so good at. I find rhyming difficult!


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