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Turning the page: life reflected in poetry

  • Posted on March 23, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Little can be as emotional and emotive as gender identity. It’s the heart of being – it’s just that for most of us there is never a question to ask, so never a disturbance. And when it’s someone else we know, we can choose a comfortable distance. I know that some of the very many people I have told will be more comfortable not having to know what being transgender is all about. Like being gay or lesbian. ‘Just get on with it, we’ll leave each other alone, no questions, I don’t need to know.’ So long as there is respect in that, I really don’t mind. After all, in a few years time my new normal will be an old normal, and I will blend back into the scenery. I will have new friends and colleagues who know me no other way. They may never know how I used to be.

Meanwhile there are freshly turned pages.

Over a year ago I began writing poetry again; nothing like stirred emotions to awaken the muse! After a while, I realised it might amount to being a little more than poorly-crafted angst, easing my soul, and started for the first time in my life, to let other people see. I took advice: I wanted to be good at what I was doing, and I had something to say. Through many sessions with Kim Lasky over many months, I learned how to craft poetry out of inspiration, and began telling the stories of perspectives of transgender journeys. As the pile of poetry grew I felt bolder and started to imagine titles of a collection. It was about perspectives, voices, journeys. But in the end my title is Realisations. All along, I was making myself more real, as well as realising things that I’d been blind to, or ignorant of, for over 40 years.

I have written a lot that has nothing to do with this collection, and was immensely gratified in October 2011, to win – at my first appearance, at my first public reading of anything – a poetry slam. My only regret was that I stood up as a man, whilst naming the poem as a woman.

RealisationsToday I turned the last page on the collection, completed my final edits and layout, and sent my final copy and cover design off to print. In a couple of weeks, I shall be in print. It isn’t the end. I’ve already imagined what the title of the sequel might be, and what direction it might take. But the point is, I knew that the collection was complete, and there was nothing more of that part of the journey I wanted to say. As such, the book will be a nice reflection, but maybe of most inspiration or reassurance to those who are following after, still finding their first steps on the ladder of self-recognition and dealing with family, friends, society at large.

And for all the investment, I have moved on. Some of the events and memories feel already old, though no less real. I have closed the book just as readers open it. I hope it will be useful. Most of all, I hope that readers will read the poems several times over, and realise that what I have really done is write some quite deep and concentrated poetry, with a language to intrigue and savour, whatever the subject.

If poetry is not your thing (and it really is not for many people) this will pass you by. For me it’s a small achievement as a writer, and a memoir of a time I shall never have to go through again. What lies ahead may be more difficult still. I shall be writing. If poetry is your thing, I really would like you to buy this beautiful little thing, and understand the heart behind it. If you do, I hope to be able to make a donation from the proceeds to the Clare Project that has sustained me during my first year of real-I-sation.

Front page news

  • Posted on February 8, 2012 at 9:22 am

David Walliams swam 140 miles up the Thames for sports charity in September 2011. He did in fact save a dog on his way. The articles appeared in The Metro on September 13.

On the day a man swims the Thames
and raises a million for all those miles,
a boy, 10, goes back to school a girl.
Together, they are front page news on every seat
on trains in and out of London today.

And tomorrow, one will have a bath
and be glad he’s going nowhere except
to a fluffy embrace, be dry, warm – and will
reminisce about the day he also saved a dog,
and talk, and tell and forever be – the man
who swam the Thames.

The other has plunged into a turbulence –
white water with only his body board, and miles
ahead, so many miles, and his alone to leave behind,
in swirling judgement of parents unwilling to see
the reach of an unfamiliar stroke, of a girl
in a class of her own.

One page – picked up, picked over, passport of a morning
and tired but persistent on the journey home –
carries its stories to three million hands (and a million
pounds for the courage in a river no surprise) –
but the courage of a daughter born a boy?

Reported ignorance, condemnation, shock and taunts –
protests at ‘lack of consultation’ by the school
reflected in uncharitable commuter chat and chafe –
and the prayers of many quiet knowing hearts in stations
everywhere, who have travelled home this way before.

2011 © Andie Davidson

From the new collection Realisations.