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LIZ CASHDAN

I am always amazed by the writing process.  I often wonder how the things I write appear on the page.  The metaphors for writing are endless: Seamus Heaney’s digging in his poem of that name; manipulating an old-fashioned telephone exchange suggested by Frank Smith in his book, Writing and the Writer ; discovery and exploration explained by Vernon Scannell in a 1970s English text book.

Before you start there’s nothing except for some thoughts whirling in your head, but when you’ve finished there’s a poem, a narrative, a plot, characters you didn’t know you knew, a story, a poem, a new world that you didn’t know existed!

Many of my poems give a voice to someone from the past.  My first degree was in History so historical subjects have always interested me.  Sometimes I look for a voice in a painting or sculpture, perhaps the artist’s, or a suggested narrative.  I like my poems to be anchored in time and space through the voice, whether it’s mine or someone else’s.  In that way a poem is like a photograph.  Here are two stanzas from a poem in the voice of Edward Elgar describing the incident with his friend George Sinclair’s dog Dan which is depicted in one of the Enigma Variations:

From Elgar’s D-O-G  in The Same Country

We walk the banks of the Wye, George thinks organs,
I am planning something orchestral.  Dan is dreaming
riverbank mud, the smell of decaying bulrushes, when
splash, Dan’s in the river, tumbled head-over-paws.

Dan rights himself, struggles upstream, paddling
to keep up with out laughter.  He leaps to the bank,
barking at the moorhens, shaking the water off
his wet coat: “Set that to music,” says George.

WRITING