It was as I wandered, over-stimulated, heart in-mouth-excited, through the gritty and graffitied streets of Berlin that I realised I could combine my three loves – strong coffee, cinema and poetry into one supremely self-indulgent blog post a month. More of Berlin later, but first, of course, in true storyteller tradition, once upon a time…
…there was a girl, a girl who loved to travel and who ended up doing international marketing for her university department as well as going on exotic far-flung holidays back in the days when she was a salaried lecturer and not a struggling poet …
One of my earliest published poems (Mslexia issue 31) was a meditation on the endless souvenirs I would buy on my travels, beginning with a stolen artefact when I was very young and very irresponsible. It was probably worthless, but I still feel a flush of shame decades later when I relive this moment, can still feel my guilty hand closing over the terracotta shape in the original bat-black darkness…
My Life in Souvenirs
A rough terracotta pot from a cavetomb in Luxor,
disturbed bats streaming behind me as I sprint
on blistering red sand, back to the river.
A necklace of coins from the souk in Jerusalem
spreading its heaviness around my throat,
my collarbones, like a shackle,
in less than a week the clasp has broken.
A skinny child in Guatemala sells me ceramic animals:
a perky, spotted dog
clenching a stolen tortilla, round as the moon, in his jaws;
A bird of prehistoric proportions;
A portly pig with flowery markings;
A tortoise flattened by the weight of the world.
A blue and white cotton yukata from Kyoto
transforms me into a giant geisha.
Even though it’s Autumn, I buy a waxy parasol
for blossom-viewing days, and a happiness mask.
The stone Buddha-head from Vietnam
fits perfectly in my cupped palms.
I sink slowly to sit among the long shadows,
close my eyes in perfect imitation and,
with a serene half-smile,
wait for the sun to set.
As I began to teach film studies in ever greater depth as a freelancer my interest in film locations grew and I currently teach a series of day schools, for Cinema City in Norwich and evenings for the King’s Lynn Community Cinema Club, on films set in London, Tokyo, Paris, Berlin… hopefully the list is endless. So, yes, I have drunk whisky (Suntory, of course!) in the New York Bar at the top of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo, on more or less the same seats as Bill Pullman and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation.
I even went back for a blossom cocktail during the day so I could actually see Tokyo rather than being all moody and jazzy in the dark… I’m not sure what it is about being in the place where scenes from my favourite films have been shot but the feeling is totally inexplicable – one of connection and the vicarious excitement of being part of this very exclusive world for a few minutes (or hours in this case…)
So, what can you expect from this blog? Thanks to a very generous grant from the Arts Council I’ll be spending five weeks in Paris researching and writing a poetry collection which explores Parisian film locations as well as the culture and cafes of Paris, so there’ll be at least a couple of postings from there as well as postings about zombie encounters in Hebden Bridge, dodgy divas in Berlin, City Lights in San Francisco and so on. And prepare to share our (husband Chris will have guest appearances) increasing obsession with the third wave coffee experience that is taking over the coffee-lovers’ world.
I’ll be posting on the last day of every month and if you join me I can guarantee you’ll increase your dvd collection, your taste for coffee and café culture in general and pick up some great urban travelling tips. And I’ll be sharing my poetic finds as well as my own poetry, written on the move. Poets (I’m sure I don’t speak just for myself here…) are often found in cafes, scribbling on plain serviettes with borrowed biros as we live up to our absent-minded reputation and realise that all those gorgeous notebooks we got from supportive friends for Christmas are still under the tree…
And finally, a place which brings everything in this blog together – the marvellous Travelling Through Bookshop www.travellingthroughbookshop.co.uk in Lower Marsh Lane near Waterloo which has shelf after shelf of books about travel, a great café with fabulous cakes and really good coffee and that’s not all! It regularly hosts workshops organised by the fantastic Hercules Editions www.herculeseditions.wordpress.com. I recently did a day workshop with brilliant poet and tutor Claire Crowther on writing a horror poem which included a screening of “The Cabinet of Dr Caligari”, one of my favourite German Expressionist films. So next month’s post has to be a focus on Berlin!