This week I finally sent a manuscript I've been working on to the publishers. It's called, tentatively, The Last Time I Saw Ipswich, although I will prostitute myself and call it something else if a publisher insists.
I put the manuscript together at the suggestion of poet Bryn Fortey, who said the poems I've written about my family are my best and that they should be collected somewhere.
It's been a strange, intense and revealing experience. I have learned a lot about myself reading back a group of poems written over 4 or 5 years. The voice in many of them was angry, accusing, cruel, unreasonable, judgemental, immature. I have softened it in many of them, while keeping enough of the original poems to ensure they remain honest to the moment of their writing.
I have also written new poems to reflect what I think is the greater understanding I have now of the things that I have lived through and the events that shaped my life.
That understanding largely comes in realising the universe doesn't exist just for me, it never has, and that the measure of every event I've been a witness to isn't necessarily how it made me feel.
None of us really knows what we're doing when we do it. We live on instinct according to our own temperament and our own experience of life up to that point. And most of the time we get it wrong. In fact, we always get it wrong for someone who comes into our orbit, because everyone has different needs and priorities.
We have to understand that and try to hurt as few people as we can. And most of all we have to be kind. I knew that when I was young and then I forgot it. But I'm giving it my best shot now, while I still have time.