'At the sink' by Colin Hill is Write Out Loud's Poem of the Week
The new Write Out Loud poem of the Week is ‘at the sink’ by Colin Hill. The poem is based on an image from the 2009 British film ‘Fish Tank’ – and in the Q&As below Colin explains that he uses pictures and images from various sources as reference points for characters, locations and objects in poetry and prose. It is the second time that one of his poems has been named Poem of the Week. Colin is also a keen and supportive commenter on other people's poems on Write Out Loud - and he has interesting views on that subject, too.
Would you like to talk about the background to this poem?
As some here in the Write Out Loud community already know, I have been working on a novel these past months. Just a couple of weeks ago I handed it over to a friend to read through and make suggestions. At the time I said it felt weird to finally let go of something that I had invested so much of myself and my time in. She replied, like taking off all your clothes and walking down the high street? Yes, I said, exactly like that. Anyway, that left me in a slight dilemma because I am now waiting for the book's return, knowing that it will need some further work before passing on to the next person for extra editing.
So I was reluctant to start on the next project, a novel which I have about 17k words already written but which has a plot not yet fully developed. I decided this week to go ahead regardless and started editing what was already done and working on plot development. Part of my writing process is to collect pictures and images from various sources to use as reference points for characters, locations, objects. I had saved an image taken from the film 'Fish Tank' (2009) of the mother pointing her finger at her daughter. That became my first line but I didn't want to write about the film as such, just the striking image of her pointing. And I wanted it to be more about the description and not about the person that she was pointing at. In my mind that person could have been anyone: husband, lover, son, daughter. I very much wanted the reader to continue the story and add their own interpretation.
It's fair to describe you as a strong supporter of Write Out Loud - you take the time to comment a lot on other people's work here, for instance. What is it about this site that you like - and where do you think we could do better?
I dropped out of education quite early, only managing a month or two of A-levels. By today's standards my old comp would have been classed as failing but there were no such safeguards in place back then and you either struggled through or left, went on the dole or got a job. I went on the dole and had a succession of jobs. It was a shame in some respects as literature and art were and still are my greatest passions but even those fell by the wayside as family life took over and I ended up becoming a full-time, stay at home dad. But as the kids became more independent I found I desperately needed to find my place again and it was to writing that I turned.
Write Out Loud and its incredibly diverse community of writers from all over the world have been very supportive and encouraging over these past couple of years and I have learned an awful lot from reading and studying the work posted here - the standard of writing can be phenomenal. Feedback and comments I have received have always been very much appreciated. We all need a good pat on the back but I think we can all play a stronger role in offering carefully considered critique about each other's work. I don't mean pointing out the odd spelling mistake which is not that important, but more in the way of structure, themes, content, word choice, repetition. There are a few brave souls who already do this but not many.
However, it is obvious that many people do not wish to receive critique which is fine and I don't have a problem with that. Write Out Loud has to work on all levels and for some it is the sharing which is most important. I suggested in a comment recently that perhaps we could have some sort of flag system by each of our poems to denote that the writer is happy to receive critique and thereby reduce the possibility of causing offence. Also, the Poetry Review section in Discussion Groups never seems to attract much attention, despite some people offering work for opinion. I believe the site is at its most vibrant and exciting when there is a good flow of friendly comments being spread around.
Are there any new poets that have come to your attention in the last year or so, that you are enthusiastic about?
Yes, quite a few although poets come and go so it is difficult to judge how serious some of them truly are about their writing. I think it would be unfair to name names but if I find a connection with a piece of writing I will always show my enthusiasm and for reasons described above I will always offer my encouragement. I am particularly attracted to poems that come at their subject matter from unusual angles. We often write about our own personal experiences and emotions but this can also be very effective when put into a third person context. Mix it up and experiment.
Are you planning to take part in National Poetry Day on Thursday?
By coincidence I will be at Brown's Hotel in Laugharne on Thursday for the monthly Poems and Pints with guest poet Oliver James Lomax, who is from Bolton. Brown's is steeped in literary history as it was Dylan Thomas's watering hole when he lived at the boathouse just down the road. No idea what I will read but Ray pointed out that my crap poem written in a supermarket car park might go down well at a live reading so it will be dedicated to him on Thursday in the presence of Dylan Thomas's ghostly watchful spirit.
I would just like to add my sincere thanks to all the Write Out Loud team and to everyone who has helped and encouraged me to write and improve what I write. I really am very much in your debt. And apologies if I have waffled but this has been a slightly hurried response to the Q&A after spending the day driving up and down motorways to university open days. Time to sign off. Cheers, Col.
AT THE SINK
by Colin Hill
She’s at the sink pointing her finger at me
half turned away from the pile of dirty dishes
white camisole over rainbow striped panties
She’s looking down the barrel of her arm
aware that I’m staring at her bum and thighs
smell of bacon fat congealing under the grill
She’s not smiling with either mouth or eyes
dark roots shadow her bleached blonde hair
static pupils beneath eyebrows and fringe
She’s standing with her belly pushed forward
I’m sat at a kitchen table in a high rise flat
sun breaking through inner city clouds
She’s not going to say anything until I do
the hot tap drips into a red plastic bowl
there’s a bite mark on her right buttock
She’s got that ‘last night’ look on her face
remnants of mascara and red lipstick
yellow egg yolk varnish on her toe nails
She’s tilting her head slightly forward
taking aim and waiting to pull the trigger
this is how each day begins and ends
PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN FROM THE 2009 UK FILM ‘FISH TANK’