Remembering, Loss and Poetry

Guest-blogger Catherine Sadler reflects on the influences of remembrance and loss on her work as a poet.

When I think about the idea of remembering, or remembrance, I immediately, and perhaps rather obviously, think about loss – the loss of a person, an idea, a dream, a place, a building, an experience, a history, or of myself as I was. In my research and practice as a poet I am looking at what might make up a poetics of loss, and how personal loss might reverberate more widely.

It seems to me that loss offers up potential for new creative work; that it can be a site of production; of a ‘correspondence’ with that which is lost, or an ‘ongoing dialogue with the dead’[i]. One of the ways I am looking at this correspondence is to look at the idea of the archive – not an archive that is a building or institution but perhaps a place or space or object that we could call an archive.

The archive is made up of memory, of loss, of fragmentation, of the provisional. It tells us ‘who we were, who we are, why we were, how we were’[ii]. The archive is a response to loss, a way of mitigating loss, a way of anticipating loss. But the archive can only be reconstruction and speculation. Remembering might only be too.

When I write, I am in the process of archiving, perhaps of memorialising. When I write about loss it is really to try and work out what can effectively be said; to capture ‘that which is ungraspable’[iii]. When I write, I try to believe in ‘language’s magical powers of saving, preserving, honouring, prolonging and having’[iv].

in Brighton

I think of us as littering the waysides, gutters.
As fluttering in the gardens, or tramped down
on the sticky floor of the Polytechnic bar.

Singing on the landing before bed.
Your stitching and maps, your sugared teacups.
I held down an office job, borrowed your clothes.

We skittered the rink of streets to the Steine,
stretched up our arms to the marvel of starlings,
swam at night, from the pier to Black Rock.

We made hats, broke into a closed-down nightclub
all mirrored and platformed. I made a list
of all we would need to live there.

light_rays_in_brighton

Rays of sun light breaking through the clouds over a stormy sea in Brighton, UK. Photo: Mash3d. Creative Commons

Finding the area

This one, three breeze blocks high,
painted white to make the most of the light
on dank days. But flaking off. At some point
someone tried to soften the edges,
ape the curves of better workmanship,
with a wrong mix of sand and cement.
A Mediterranean turquoise outdoors paint.
This was the paddling pool.

Under my feet now it was dug out deeper –
estimate the equivalent of twenty breeze blocks
or more then, no, think that’s ambitious.
But it was sunken, remember?
And full of a dream of Saint-Tropez, bikini.
Across the way, through the promenade gardens,
the hotel, rendered with a mix of ground glass
so it would sparkle in the light.

I walk to where my guess of the deep end would be,
lie down to press my face to the concrete slabs,
prepared to stipple my face with their surface.
Breathe. I have swum with sorrow,
I say to no-one.

paddling_pool_hove_lagoon_-_geograph-org-uk_-_1142922

Paddling Pool, Hove Lagoon. Photo: copyright Simon Carey

Catherine Sadler is a Faculty of Arts Cultures and Education (FACE) scholarship PhD Creative Writing candidate at The University of Hull.

[i] In Kirkby, J. (2006) “Remembrance of the Future”: Derrida on Mourning. Social Semiotics, 16 (3), 461-72

[ii] University of Cambridge Centre for Research in The Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (2015) Katherine Hayles: A Theory of the Total Archive: Infinite Expansion, Infinite Compression and Apparatuses of Control [Video]. Available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbA_M2F9j28

[iii] Souffrant, L. (2015) A Slowing: Poetics and Attention. Jacket 2 http://jacket2.org/commentary

[iv] Watkin, W. (2004) On Mourning: Theories of loss in modern literature Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

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