We change narratives by sharing them – Jackie Wills

Poet, living in Brighton

Recently, the daughter of a friend who died seven years ago sent me an account she’s written about scattering her mother’s ashes. Her mum and I had our first babies within a day of each other. Her story reminded me of her mum’s wicked humour and our surreal ante-natal classes. I remembered my last afternoon with her mum, the text telling me she’d died, her crowded funeral. This memoir, set by a river and in the house I knew so well, moving through the years my friend was ill, contains all I want as a reader and writer – one narrative enabling another and another and another. 

And so any poem, short story or memoir can create a chain. The poem Snow Water by Michael Longley, for example, led me to eleven poems written on the same scroll by different Chinese poets. He wrote himself into that unique community with a narrative about the names of teas and a 60th birthday. 

There’s a theory that by writing something you make it happen. I read a challenging book last year, The World We Made, by Jonathan Porritt. Published in 2013, Porritt writes about virtual travel among many other options for the future. Our present as described in the book is grim.  I’ve passed it on to my local charity shop.  We change narratives by sharing them and opening them up. This is the responsibility we hold.

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