“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings:
it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” WORDSWORTH
I wrote my first poem when I was seven. In those years we had books. I remember mine so well - ‘Susan goes to Market’, and a tale about “grandfather grubbing in the garden”, the relevance of that being great-grandmother digging trenches to grow sweetcorn - South African style. It was wartime. Also, the unforgettable tale of a hedgehog and her friend the Tortoise who loved “poor little Fuzzypeg all over prickly, (who) wished she’d been born all soft and tickly.” Tortoise didn’t notice the prickles. This was given to me by an elderly friend out of sympathy for the congenital skin condition I was born with. Within ver few years freedom with our reading and life in general within the religious group to which my parents belonged started to become legalistic. As the years went by loveless restraints and rules became more and more harsh, as the religious ‘teaching’ took hold.
Search for a Soul commences with the birth of my youngest sibling when I was fourteen. I then set the scene by returning to my earliest memories. The family grew. The external religious influence became more invasive and extreme until the axe fell. Release. The family remained entire. Fifty years ago, just after my first daughter was born, having spent ten years “learning to live in the world” I realised the extent to which these earliest years were ‘history’ and had left their mark. I decided to write about them as much for my siblings as myself. These memories include poems of adjustment.
Fifteen years ago a friend who had a similar background read the manuscript. He said, “This should be published.” Fast forward another twelve years. I am recuperating after knee surgery and, dipping into the manuscript, decide to complete it this time analysing the effects of my hard-line, unrelenting upbringing especially in relation to the religious input. In the process I had to recognise the difference that exists between the four eldest in the family and the younger half who escaped, the oldest being thirteen at the time; even among them repercussion is significant.
Helen Iles has been an amazing, long-suffering producer with whom to work.