Arrival at Elsewhere – creating characters

ElsewhereCoverFrontPage

By Carl Griffin

Although many of the poems/fragments I received for this project featured family members or neighbours, I didn’t always think it was right to use these as part of a larger poem, although some managed to survive. But by weaving a few minor characters from these fragments with new settings from other fragments, and new sets of circumstances from yet more fragments, I was able to create new characters, or at least give more life to the bit characters. I didn’t do this as much as I would have liked in Arrival at Elsewhere, but here is an example of a successful transition, from the very start of the poem.

I came across an intriguing minor character in a poem sent to me by Rachel Hadas, called Metronorth, Hudson Line, February 29 2020:

How much longer will it be conceivable

for public spaces to be thronged like this?
(The Doges’ Palace: empty.)
A woman in a skin-tight ankle-length
scarlet dress and high-heeled silver sandals,

who looks as if she’ll give birth any minute,
poses, cradling her toddler in her arms,
resting him on the convenient
shelf of her jutting belly.

What cannot be taken away?
Clouds and the shadows of clouds
and the morning light,
metallic, gleaming off grey wrinkled water.

In retrospect, I wish I’d used the clouds in the poem as well. The rest of the poem didn’t fit, location-wise, so I had to find somewhere else for the pregnant woman to be discovered.

I picked out the following fragment by the poet Martyn Crucefix:

Surely an occasion because the man at the roadside café table reminds me of someone who is not my dead father or my dead mother.

The “man” became the “diner”, the pregnant woman. A little later, the woman is given a voice as she starts speaking, lullaby-like, to her children, both the born and the unborn, with words from yet another fragment/poem, this time one by Kerry Darbishire, called Windflowers:

When this is all over
We’ll go to where the windflowers grow
like fallen stars along the river’s edge
among the mossy boulders, water bright,
and see how their night-eyes close.

This moment was threaded in and now concludes the second page of Arrival at Elsewhere. This pregnant mother doesn’t re-surface in the long poem, but throughout the process of setting out the poem, I found this character in her new place, with her new dialogue, staying in my memory.

You can read an excerpt from the book at Arrival at Elsewhere – a glimpse.

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