Monica's section of our storyline was of special interest. I learned a lot about the intersection of poetry and tale through working with her. Every time a piece Monica gave me wasn't quite there, we talked about how to best walk that tightrope between image and story. I'll let Monica tell you the rest.
The fish GP rejects
Sometimes, having a story rejected can be the nicest experience. Such was the case with my numerous attempts at migration fiction.
I came to one story with a question, a contrast. What if a whole society, newly landed, brought migratory values of peace and respect instead of discovery and triumph? The result was an abstract story about a matriarchal culture with environment-derived rituals. My favourite part was the silence of the new city. The carless streets were lined with grass-mats to encourage soft stepping.
“Not quite there,” were Gillian’s words, I think.
I looked at language. I remembered the uneasiness of trying to navigate the yoghurt section of a Parisian supermarket. Daily life in a foreign land is eased by routine. So, I wrote a story about a man, newly migrated, whose language was primarily visual. He made rubbings. The story included text and actual rubbings. Sometimes, (actually oftentimes) I feel words are insufficient and incomplete. Words cannot tell the whole story. In a two-dimensional medium I sometimes turn to image in an attempt to reach a more ancient level of narrative.
“You haven’t quite got it yet,” said Gillian.
She was right.
I tried again, and then several more times. As my sense of failure increased I reached further. I wrote poems, lists, took research notes, drew clusters of words looking for patterns of emotion.
Migration is big. I was suffocating.
I did the thing I least wanted to do and looked at the migration stories from my own family. (How predictable, obvious.) I mucked around with my family documents in the National Archives. I looked at other people’s families. Now I was really drowning! There’s love and death and strength from long ago; it’s all there, for anyone to read.
“That’s more like it,” said Gillian.