On Thursdays, I invite my favourite writers to share the inspirations behind their work. Here’s one from poet and bookseller extraordinaire Jen Campbell.
‘Merlasses’ won 3rd place in the Plough Prize 2014 and was published here.
The lads pay to watch us. Caitlin’s pink and Tara’s
red-burn cheeks, canny near blowin. We play at drowin.
Plodge until wor lungs are blue.
I’ve noticed two main themes creeping into my poetry. (Like, literally, creeping. I can reach the end of a piece, read over it and think ‘I can see you!’) The first is the north-east, where I grew up and lived for eighteen years. The second is myths/freak shows/fairy tales. I know the latter is due to the fact that I have a genetic condition which would have had me locked up in a freak show if I’d been born in the Victorian times. You can call me Lobster Girl, if you like – though I’d rather you didn’t. ‘Merlasses’ – I think – was the first poem I wrote which merged those two things together.
I have a lot of fond memories of home, but I also remember the night life. Geordie Shore doesn’t exaggerate. There’s a massive amount pressure on girls to wear next to nothing and head out on the town in heels they can hardly walk in, sequins and tans a-blaring. Boys shouting at them like they’re up for sale. So, I thought about that, and then I thought of the sea, which lead me to thinking about fake mermaids (as I tend to do). And I thought of girls having Saturday jobs dressed up in tails made out of sequins, who believe that to be beautiful is the only job in life. Swimming, gasping for breath, while boys pound their fists against their glass tanks, waving five pound notes and screaming for more.
So… that’s the way my brain works. And I wrote the poem in Geordie, as I thought it sounded grittier that way.
Read ‘Merlasses’ here.