Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Years ago, playing an electric guitar at Ovington Square - Brian Turner - My Life as a Foreign Country

Ovington Square

5 to 7

We used to live in the vast space of the studio behind 10 Ovington Square. This was just one part of my grandparents' big house. We moved to our own family house when I was 7. Not as much fun by a long way. The studio was then rented out to various musicians.

16 to 18

One of these musicians let me visit and chat once or twice. He was a guitarist and let me pluck the strings of one electric guitar, while he played another one. He was so good he could play classic songs based on the random notes I picked out. He made me feel like an equal partner in the whole process. A nice feeling.

Another, a pianist, let me visit roughly every two weeks for ages. What was my family thinking? We'd sit and drink coffee and chat for quite a while. I'd smoke or did I just have coffee? Anyway... I was 18. Now I am a mother I am shocked.

Brian Turner - My Life as a Foreign Country

There is a different feel to reading a book by someone I have been to a poetry workshop with. Not only that, but he is so easy to be in the room with. When he asked if we were all ok, did we need anything, I actually said I was cold. He gave me his own jacket to wear. That was kind.

Someone else arrived spectacularly late and he just said now is the perfect time to arrive, welcome. That was Jude Montague. We all went off for coffee afterwards and she gave e a copy of her book. Just like that. And told me she writes everything, no barriers or censorship. I'm not there yet.

He also warned us that the moment we found we'd got going on our writing he'd be stopping us to go on to the next topic. So it proved. I have lots of starts from that afternoon. Unlike other workshops, we were not asked to read out to each other or to everyone. Possibly because his big topic is trauma, so we might be focusing at that. I was anyway. Gingerly. Extremely nervously. Not wanting to at all, but trying it a bit anyway, because I needed to. I had only booked my place the day before and had told myself I needn't go along at all if I needed to back out at the last minute. Link.

I wasn't at all sure I'd be at the reading later that day, for the same reason. Instead I might have been lurking in a Japanese restaurant with someone else simply talking and processing the workshop, not being good and polite at a reading.

So, this book. I am not used to the open way the men discuss sex. That is an eye opener. We women just don't, or not yet.. Or maybe only on the 52 facebook group. Maybe I need to get out more.

The landscape shines through the military hardware and technical specifications. He loves his details, the accurate processes the US army uses to do its job. The water buffalo, rivers and birds break through all that, with a simplicity which he may be unaware of.

There is a little knowledge of Arabic literature, but it must be in translation. I had half hoped he would be a fluent speaker by now, maybe he is? At that point he wasn't. I have noted down the references from the notes at the back. More Amazon 2nd hand orders.

I wanted to know more about his wife Ilyse. She is a constant, beautiful, womanly presence. If I were her I'd be entranced.

Since I enjoy blogs, eg George Szirtes, Anthony Wilson, Baroque in Hackney and 365, I am half hoping there will be a blog somewhere of his thoughts and studies now. He teaches and loves it. He studies poetry, which is my thing, so I'd want to read about his life now.

I assume that My Life as a Foreign Country has started to get the shrapnel out of his mind, but maybe it simply allows different shrapnel to start emerging. An unavoidable process.

To what extent has he begun to interact with Iraqis or Iraq or the Middle East in general since leaving the Army? Or is his main relationship with the US itself, via its army and his male family members' involvement in it? Or, going beyond that, is his debate with himself and the world about being a man.

This is a problem with reading writings from several years ago, they don't say much about now. They tell me about then. I want to be up to date, know what happened next, what is happening now.

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