In our writing group today we shared pieces which had been inspired by a poem or verse – it didn’t have to be an actual poem, it could be any piece of writing. We spent the first part of the afternoon talking about writing, and about Christopher Booker’s theory that all stories came down to seven main plots or narrative, that maybe publishers are looking for books which fit a certain pattern or formula, that a couple of academics have published a book about a scientific analaysis of best sellers and what perhaps makes a ‘best seller’…
And then we read out pieces; because I lead the group I always wait till last to read anything I have written, just in case we run out of time – and in actual fact we did run our of time, so I didn’t read either the poem I had chosen, or what it had inspired.
In actual fact, I didn’t write anything new, but took a passage from my novel ‘Night Vision’ a passage which had been directly inspired by this poem:
Resolution and Independence
There was a roaring in the wind all night;
The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;
The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters;
And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.
All things that love the sun are out of doors;
The sky rejoices in the morning’s birth;
The grass is bright with rain-drops;—on the moors
The hare is running races in her mirth;
And with her feet she from the plashy earth
Raises a mist, that, glittering in the sun,
Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.
I was a Traveller then upon the moor;
I saw the hare that raced about with joy;
I heard the woods and distant waters roar;
Or heard them not, as happy as a boy:
The pleasant season did my heart employ:
My old remembrances went from me wholly;
And all the ways of men, so vain and melancholy.
But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
Of joys in minds that can no further go,
As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low;
To me that morning did it happen so;
And fears and fancies thick upon me came;
Dim sadness—and blind thoughts, I knew not, nor could name.
This is the first four verses of a longer poem; the very vivid image of the rain coming down in floods always comes into my mind when it really is raining heavily, and when i was writing about the main character, Beulah driving through a storm, I had the poem in my mind.
Here is the rainy scene – Beulah has had a terrible argument with her husband Neil who was at a rugby club, drunk, when he should have been taking her out. She runs out into the rain, jumps in her car and drives way:
Beulah drove at random, tears streaming down her face as the rain streamed down the windscreen. An oncoming vehicle flashed its lights aggressively and Beulah went to lower hers only to realise that she hadn’t even turned them on. She pulled over to the side of the road and wept, embarrassed, mortified, humiliated.
How could you, Neil, how could you? She wanted to run away, but where to? Her friends were all in Manchester… thank God the boys were thousands of miles away. She wouldn’t go back to the flat, Austin and Annie might see her arrive alone and wonder what was wrong, come to be kind…. She couldn’t face them.
She wiped her face, smearing her carefully applied make-up. She couldn’t help but think of her excitement and anticipation, her optimism and hope. It was an insult, an affront. Bad enough for anyone to do something like that, but for her own husband to make a mockery of her love for him… She was sobbing now, utterly miserable, the future absolutely black, no hope of ever regaining the relationship she’d had with Neil.
How could she ever trust him again? Their problems all came from him. When his jealousy exploded in his attack on Rafi she could honestly say that she was innocent. She blew her nose and got out of the car and walked up and down in the teeming rain. Her feet were wet in her slender strapped sandals, the soles so thin the water pooling on the pavement ran between her toes.
Back in the car, cold, very wet and more controlled but no calmer, she looked at her phone. Nothing from Neil. Should she ring him but what could she possibly say? Even if he’d been sober enough to understand what she meant, what could she say?
Why hadn’t he rung her? It was nine fifty, she’d arrived at the club a few minutes before nine. Why hadn’t he rung? He was probably stumbling into a taxi, belatedly trying to catch her or make his way to the restaurant. Or maybe he was going back to the flat. Or maybe he’d lurched after her and was staggering around in the dark and rain.
It had been a stupid joke, a stupid hurtful joke. She’d find it hard to forgive, but perhaps he’d not been deliberately malicious or cruel, just grossly insensitive, crass, drunk and stupid. She rang him and after a long while he answered but all she could hear was the same drunken racket, singing, shouting, glasses, music, muffled voices. So, he was still at the rugby club. He’d let her run out into the night, distraught and distressed and he’d stayed drinking and laughing with his friends.
Beulah was shivering, as much with emotional trauma as with cold. Beulah needed time to think… or not to think. She drove out of Easthope and through Strand, she didn’t want Neil finding her, even if he came looking. Her phone was on the seat beside her, its silence telling her that he didn’t care.
Should they go for some sort of counselling, Relate, or whatever it was called? Should they separate for a while? But the thought of not being with Neil, of waking every morning without him beside her, of sitting down to eat without him opposite her… it was too unbearable to contemplate.
She pulled into a lay-by as a fresh wave of emotion and despair engulfed her. It had been so embarrassing. She’d walked in and all those men had looked at her knowing how she’d made love to Neil. What on earth was he thinking? How could he be so obtuse and unfeeling? Was he showing off? He had demeaned her, and those men, his friends, strangers to her, had become voyeurs at the instigation of her husband.
She couldn’t sit snivelling and sorry for herself, alone and lonely; she walked around again, the rain coming down even more heavily. Back in the car she turned on the radio; by an unfortunate coincidence Percy Sledge was singing ‘When a man loves a woman,’ a song Neil had sung during their early days together. She switched it off, switched off the tender memories …
She set off again, crawling along, the rain lashing down so heavily her wipers couldn’t clear the screen. Even with her lights full on she could hardly see where she was going until there was an illuminating blaze of lightning arcing above showing the flooded road, water running like a river. There was a sign to Westope and she drove down to the boatyard and parked against the fence.
The storm unleashed its torrential worst. She had some gloomy satisfaction in the sound of the roaring wind which buffeted the car, screaming and whistling through the boats’ rigging. Deafening thunder cracked and rolled above her and the sheets of viridian lightning matched her despair. She tried to remember Lear’s rage, tried to recall his anguished words, to block out her own thoughts.
The night was full of strange and deafening noises, crashes and bangs as invisible things were tossed about in the boat yard. She should have been frightened but she was beyond fear. She reclined the seat, slipping off her shoes and drawing her feet up to tuck beneath her dress; she wrapped her jacket around her knees, her eyes on her phone, waiting for Neil to call.
She had no idea of the time, didn’t care, it didn’t matter.
If you haven’t yet rad ‘Night Vision’ you can find it here: