Chatham.Dock

Lots has been happening but more in my head than on paper. Two creative roads are crossing: I’m poet-in-residence at Chatham Dockyard from now till National Poetry Day. It’s a really exciting project where I spend a day a week for seven weeks in various sites like the Ropery, a Victorian warship and the No.1 Smithery.  On each day I draft a sonnet about the space and each sonnet will be linked i.e. the last line of one becomes the first line of the next – a corona (yeah, it obviously has to be really difficult to whet my appetite). On the plus side, the form will help give the project momentum. It will become a kind of narrative but each poem will stand alone. It’s very different to the Roving Mic project. Roving Mic’s about narrative and character whereas this will be more of a slice of life looking at the work, the graft that took place at the Dockyard. There’s a stark contrast between being paid to write poetry and being paid to make e.g. rope but at the same time, we both use craft and certainly with sonnet writing you’re working with form. Lots of nice parallels. Really looking forward to it.

Of course, Chatham’s on the London-Canterbury route. I don’t think it’s mentioned in the Canterbury Tales but Rochester certainly is and no-one really knows where Rochester ends and Chatham begins. The BBC set the opening of one of their pieces at Chatham Dockyard and I’m toying with the idea of using the Pentagon as a setting, a very very ugly shopping centre that at least has recognisable shops (unlike the one at The Elephant, my current setting. n.b. the link makes it look almost OK. It’s so not). I’m intrigued by the fact that it’s encircled by Chatham Bus Station, a bus spotter’s dream. I had the misfortune to spend an hour and half there last Thursday and the only thing that kept me sane was the fact that I could call it ‘research’.  Place has become of paramount importance to my work which is healthy because it hasn’t really been much of an issue before. I guess Vicious Circle was very aware of the opening and the closing space, the bar that was both in the real world and the dream world in the hero’s and the heroine’s head. Also, it was completely steeped in film noir where setting is everything. Anyway, what I love, yes love, about the Pentagon is that one side of the bus station looks like night in the middle of the day. Really. It’s one of the grimmest places imaginable but it fires the imagination because you’re sitting on the top deck of a bus with the sun streaming in throught he windows and suddenly you’re enveloped with gloom, the temperature drops and you’ve gone back in time forty years. I can’t imagine the Pentagon has changed much over the years. I need to do some more research. Oh, and the Pentagon is such a great name for a meeting place. It has such resonance on so many levels.

Lots has been happening in my personal life and after a difficult, static month, things are moving. Which means at long last I’m back on track again with the writing. Had a great day Monday with the Knight’s Tale. It was slow but satisfying. I was inserting and enriching rather than writing lots of completely new material. I hope I’ve given it depth and texture and made the setting more three-dimensional. Now I have to work really really hard on the characters so they’re not just pawns in the tragedy. I’m exhausted but exhilirated at the same time. I’m going to spend the rest of the week on adrenaline…