Embryonic ‘Emily’

Here’s some thinking on the page. The Knight’s Tale is a four-part story. Maybe I could tell the entire story from four different points of view. Or three. First, second and third person. Or tell the same tale from different perspectives. And what part of the tale do I tell? I don’t have to tell the whole tale. But there must be three central characters, the two male rivals. And Emily. And at this stage, my working title will be Emily. The word ‘Emily’ will begin and end each section. Maybe.

Had the idea at one stage for the first part being a mirror poem. What a mad ambitious idea. A mirror poem with a difference: it would be from two different perspectives, Palamon’s and Arcite’s. So I would change some details subtly from one side to the other. The idea still appeals (and now the even more ambitious idea of making it a corona! Why make life so difficult?) Back to the mirror idea. The poem would  focus in on the central point, Emily. But the nature of the gaze would differ, demonstrating one to the be the true love and the other not quite so true. Palamon saw her first and ultimately is shown to be The One, the deserving one. But writing a mirror poem would have to focus on a particular part of the story, not the whole story. Which is a pity cos it’s a damn good story. The jury’s out on this one. It would also be odd to start the book with a mirror poem but not disallowed. How, without having a marginal name could I show who’s speaking? Could change the typeface? There must be a way. A good form to show desire and obsession. Need not be narrative at all. But if not a story, would have to make up for it in intensity.

I think it should be a story. Another shorter narrative/extract could perhaps work as a mirror poem. The story’s too good to lose in a form the excels in the moment. This one’s more likely to be blank verse, terza rima, rap – anything that allows a narrative to flow. The Parson’s Tale is a rap, why couldn’t the Knight’s be? It would challenge conventions somewhat, the two paragons of virtue telling tales using the most streetwise form of poetry. If I decide to set it on/off the Old Kent Road then would be quite fitting. Inner city and all that.

Am also pondering the prison concept. Could I create a prison of the mind? It would take a lot to have the same dramatic impact as someone who’s physically restrained (which of course leads to mental constraint also). But what if the barrier were that she belonged to a different social class, race or, more dangerously, a rival gang? A bit Romeo and Juliet but nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, might use the rival gang concept when it comes to the final showdown…Could a high rise be a prison tower? Or the 9-to-5 that was really a ball and chain (Francesca Beard) i.e. they both work in Tesco on Old Kent Road. Will have to be careful not to be too place specific – could be done for libel. You know what these big corporations are like. Let’s think big. Let’s suppose the book will be so popular that Tesco might hear about it. Would get away with it if it were non-specific or a made-up name. The latter’s better cos location’s important. Good art is often specific. It’s the details that sell your story (Quentin Tarantino).

Thinking onto the page is useful because it tends to draw on earlier memories. (I’d buried the mirror poem idea a while back – glad to see it resurface). Seeing my thoughts visually (words on the page) seems to be very effective. Look at the wonderful effect of the morning pages that unblocked me for two years enabling me to write Transformatrix. This isn’t as rambling as morning pages – roving mic is the focus – but it feels like a conversation with myself. Which is what I need. At times I feel acutely isolated and want more comments but that’s mainly on the writing, the poem I’m proud of, rather than the blog about the process. I don’t want to spend the next two years in conversation with tens of writers rather than doing the writing. Were I young, free and single I’d have the time to do so. But the reality is quite different. Having said that, it doesn’t take long to respond to a short comment and it would be nice to see others in dialogue with each other. So from time to time I’ll give people the link then sit back and read some more pithy Middle English. The text is a constant. The text is my primary inspiration.

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2 thoughts on “Embryonic ‘Emily’

  1. Pilgrims’ Progress

    Thank you Patience for taking the time to blog your writing on route to your new work inspired by The Canterbury Tales. Quality writing time is surely precious, so it’s really good that you can share this with us, and to hear that you can find it helpful too.

    Your blog – illuminating, open and entertaining – recalls your Canterbury event earlier this month, in which you not only treated us to pitch perfect performances of your poems but also shared with us where they came from, and where they lead.

    Your new work is quite an undertaking, and clearly a labour of love – though laborious poetry it’s definitely not! Brilliant that you chose to start by tackling the prosaic, doctrinal Parson’s ‘Tale’ (I might have felt wholesome wading through the original, for my sins, but not exactly entertained!) – revamping it to reveal the slick Rap, The Son aka The Parson, telling us of his crew of Seven Deadly Sins who similarly take on a more enticing guise than in the original. I love how the latter update itself has roots in other medieval approaches which personified the Sins – chiming with Chaucer’s version where he talks of the ‘companion’ sins and virtues.

    The premiere of this pilgrim’s piece produced a real buzz on the night – it was great to witness something brand new in performance here.
    There’s some inspiring geographical overtones coming through in the project – even mapping the route outlined in the original Tales in the present day, drawing on your own and others’ experience of certain towns – Deptford, Rochester, Canterbury – like the young poets’ Canterbury references you found a place for in Rap The Son’s tale.

    In this way, Vicky Wilson’s pertinent question ‘where do you go from here?’ (i.e. which poem do you write next?) might take on a tantalizingly literal meaning –I see you have already been thinking about revisiting the Old Kent Road whilst revisiting The Knight’s Tale. And I suppose that part of the beauty of the model of the Canterbury Tales is the scope it gives for pieces in your new collection to bring together person, place and poetry; teller, town and tale.

    I’m sure all who are following the path laid out in your blog or in Canterbury wish you very well on your continuing writing journey!

    John Prebble

    • Great to get some positive feedback, John. It’s been a bit of a challenging month healthwise so the juices haven’t exactly been flowing. But I have been playing around with a few ideas around The Knight’s Tale which you can read in the more recent blogs. Not all the tales will be set on the London Canterbury route. Many will be elsewhere. But I did want to celebrate location when it was a place I have a close association with i.e. Deptford, Greenwich, Gravesend, Rochester, Chatham, Canterbury…Also, I wanted to mention places that were actually referred to in the original. Once I’ve done the Knight’s Tale I’d like to visit the site of the Tabard Inn on Borough High Street. Apparently there’s a pub called The George right next to it which is itself worth visiting. A good excuse for a drink…

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