Routes are packed
With the absence of people
And abandoned woodland dens,
Still holding those insistent conversations,
The budding minds, pulled at the roots
Of bluebells and stared
Straight into the world’s eye
Which glowed down at them
Through gaps in the leaves.
Thousands of characters
Rushing around my head,
All bouncing and waving-
A little too much for me to take.
They punctuate those rare moments,
Where silence fills the spaces
In the vacant seconds of a day.
They pinch and prod me,
Appearing more real than reality.
They need me so that they can live,
So they can breathe,
So they can stretch and feel.
Without me, my characters have no life,
They wander and stumble in the dark
Frantic like a lost toddler;
They die in the dark,
So sleep is not an option.
They need the colour
Require vivid imagination,
Must have the control of my body
Down to my fingertips
Where I reach for a pen.
I watch them restlessly,
I’m worried, waiting for the day
When they wander off
Sick of not being fulfilled,
Tired that their fiction isn’t tangible,
Exasperated at my failure to listen.
My characters wander around,
Always around the perimeters,
Threatening my overspilling head.
I need them to survive.
They are my lifeline, my escape.
My only fact is my fiction.
It is a cult of your own making,
A stricken frenzy led by fascination,
A mistake; I think not,
But a world of your own careful construction,
Walls built high, barricaded with locks,
A censored world flourishing in dysfunction,
Yours is a paradise paying for destruction.
Death by criticism and isolation,
A gift given as your prejudiced consolation,
Your heels click neatly as they pound the floor,
With frenzied opportunists shouting for more
And your pseudo-interest in them giving you a parasitic tour.
The stage is set – a sea of red,
People salivating for the cruel words you said,
Your mouth mimes the action of knowing intelligence
Whilst a vicious dictator takes over instead,
Casting your spell over the living dead.
Faces recoil in all the other places,
Nooks and crannies – the liberal spaces,
Tears of anger linger in their facial creases,
But hearts of resolve solidify behind love-torn faces,
More powerful than the dirty money
Lying in your corporate briefcases.
When did life stop being about romance novels set in idyllic cottages in the English countryside? When did I stop curling up with a bookend reading for fun without the pressure to analyse every piece of grammar?
Reading books used to be about fun for me. I could escape into someone else’s story, dream about them and pretend to inhabit their world. My imagination would be set alight by the endless possibilities of different endings and ideas for sequels so that I could keep that world alive. I would feel at my most safe when I was huddled under blanket knowing that I didn’t even have to move from the sofa for the rest of the afternoon if I didn’t want to, I could just sit in peace and read.
I devoured books quickly because I was hungry for that spark of magic that they held. I couldn’t savour them for long as quickly passed onto the next one that was sure to pull my into its own world. In this way, I had one corner of my life that was reserved purely for happiness and adventure through books.
I think I have lost these feelings though somewhere. I think I left them behind when I became desperate to prove myself to be an academic and someone who had an insight into pieces of text because I relied on my academic ability to feel like I had any self-worth. I stopped looking at books as magic portal keys into a different world and instead saw them as an opponent I had to face and conquer; something that wasn’t to be enjoyed but to be pulled apart and critiqued through the voice and eyes of someone else. I wrote long essays on books using opinions that weren’t true to me but what I thought would impress my teachers. I lost any passion for literature because if I read a book that wasn’t a Classic or prestigious I had the voice of a snooty academic in the back of my head telling me that was reading an unoriginal piece of commercial writing.
I realise now what a mistake it was for me to give into this voice. Reading made me happy and by giving in to people who felt that they had the right to lecture me on what was good and bad was ridiculous. If I get a sense of enjoyment out of book then I can think that it is good. It doesn’t matter that I am 18 and I still hunger to pore through the shelves of YA fiction in Waterstones, why can’t I give into that impulse if it makes me happy? Books don’t have to be micro-analysed. They can be if that is what you are using it for but primarily surely they are there to engage with the reader in whatever way they can. Also, I’m pretty sure authors wouldn’t be happy with teachers telling pupils what they should and shouldn’t think and feel in relation to their book. Books are made to be enjoyed, not for a teacher to force it down someone’s throat.