My Monkey Avatar

It’s just gone 7.30am and I’m on the train to Cardiff. The spring sun is pale and ethereal in a blue-wash sky and I’m looking forward to a busy three days of planning, manuscript edits and workshops. Maybe this sounds clichéd but I’m still pinching myself that this amazingly multicoloured and sprawling piece of knitting is not just my job, but my life.

Visualising this career is perhaps best done by imagining an 80s computer game set in a jungle and I am a monkey swinging on vines through the trees. The monkey has to let go of the vine she’s holding onto and take a leap of faith towards the next vine. There’s a horrible lurch – that stomach churning moment where she might not make it. Sometimes she doesn’t. And when that happens she hits the ground and cries about it – game over.

Reset. Start new game.

She’s swinging through the vines again. And again. But the only way my monkey avatar can travel is by letting go of the current vine and reaching for the next one. Clinging onto the vine she’s got means she’s going nowhere. It’s safe, but if the point is progression through the game-of-life then it’s not really an option (and would make for a really boring game). When she first starts out she falls. Lots. But she learns new skills and adapts; improves her timing and judgment. I’m reminded of a quote by William Blake:

The [wo]man who never alters his [her] opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.

I keep returning to this because that’s how I feel about life. I’d change the word ‘opinion’ for ‘life’. And a quote from Einstein surfaces:

Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better. 

Perhaps the blueprint for being a successful self-employed poet is to create our own blueprint – and don’t be afraid to set it on fire to make poems from the ashes.

The last lines from the title piece of the new collection Rebel Sun speaks of this because it’s a state of being I’m aspiring towards:

When I look into nature I see constant movement, flow, evolution, death, rebirth, pain and transformation. No two trees grow the same except for ones we have interfered with and planted and pruned. Nature overstretches herself, is tenacious and ambitious – she will fill any gap, adapting and shapeshifting across landscapes. She doesn’t know pride or defeat – she just keeps evolving. She is my inspiration and my mentor.

Rebel Sun is out with Parthian books June 2017. Pre-orders will be available from their website soon.