When I was a child, writing was never much on my mind. I was quite determined to be a STAR and spent most of my free time acting out with my friends scenes we’d seen at the movies. I was Ann Miller, or June Allyson, or Doris Day. This was in the Fifties, before tv, when we went to the cinema as often as we could. We inhabited the world depicted in the recent Coen brothers movie, HAIL CAESAR, and were fans particularly of musicals, and of the swimming star, Esther Williams.
But I did like writing little poems which, when they weren’t about about nymphs and Greek gods described storms or sunsets or effused about kittens. When I was about eight, I wrote my first actual long form story. It runs to 12 of neatly written A5 pages. Looking at it now, I admire the excellently neat handwriting, so full marks to whoever it was who taught me writing. This neatness must also mean that I wrote it out in rough and then copied it. I was clearly aware that I was embarking on A STORY. I’m also rather impressed by the beginning: straight in with an introduction to the main character, a mouse called Squeaker de Whiskers Blanches. At this time of my life, (about 1953, I guess) we visited Paris often. My uncle was an artist and my Dad loved taking me round art galleries, pontificating about who was good and who wasn’t. I was overwhelmed by the Louvre, so that’s where Squeaker lives, of course.
At school, I did contribute poems to the school magazine and I always loved writing essays but the poetry bug only really hit me when I fell in love. That’s when it gets most teenagers, I suppose and I was no different. My handwriting has deteriorated since the Squeaker days, but my poetry is full of emotion and very romantic and over the top.
I also find it interesting that my preoccupations haven’t changed much.This(above) is basically a description of Brighton in various different moods: the buildings, the atmosphere and so forth. I’ve always been partial to describing stuff and also interested in places.
This(right) is about tulips, but it goes without saying that these tulips are full of meaning and import! I still adore tulips. I’m going to reproduce the poem here and you can giggle at the overthetopness of it all. It’s about flowers fading but oh, so much, much more in the hands of a lovesick seventeen year old…from the general gloom, I’m concluding I must recently have been dumped. I’ve forgotten the actual occasion but here’s what I wrote:
Purple in death, a tulip
withers itself black on my desk,
and the red of another
mottles to crimson of a heart in grief.
But the pale green stalks
torture themselves gently
in the cool glass, cool green glass
and apart, the third and red
picked with the others on
a day in May, now
curves, and lays its flower,
broken, on the wood.
Adèle Geras lives in Cambridge. She’s written many books for children and young adults, including Two Fearsome Fairytales from France published by Christmas Press. Her latest book is The Dream Quilt published by Long Barn Books and she has a novel for adults coming in June, called Love or Nearest Offer, published by Quercus.