Kate Wakeling is a multitalented poet and writer. Her brand new book ‘Cloud Soup’ is being released on July 15th and has treated Young Writers to an exclusive piece about her creativity over the last year.
The pandemic has hit everyone’s creativity differently. For some, the pandemic has given daily inspiration for writing, or in Kate’s case, it's removed her usual sources of inspiration making it harder to write:
The Pandemic has been awful in so many different ways for so many different people. I know my experiences of it have been pretty lucky and OK: I have been safe and well with my family throughout. But all the same, the lockdowns were some of the hardest times in my life, mostly because I couldn’t write. I was trying to finish my new children’s poetry book, Cloud Soup, but I was stuck. I always used to get my ideas from being out and about, eavesdropping on other people’s conversations and wandering into cafes or museums or shops. And when none of this was available to me, at first I couldn’t write a thing.
I hadn’t known before how miserable this would make me. But the experience did help me realise how much I love writing poems. I find it a very special sensation. A weird mixture of juggling and singing and peering through a telescope and a microscope, all at the same time. I think poems are magic. They can do all sorts. They can turn the world you thought you knew upside down. They can show you things about yourself you’d never imagined. They can make you laugh or cry or (best of all) both. They can make your tongue and/or ears sizzle with delight. I love too that poems are (usually) short. A single poem can change the way you think about something forever, but it might only take you 39 seconds to read it.
So I figured I’d better try and find some way to get going with poems again. And, very slowly, I found some other ways to get my writing started. Here’s what I discovered.
I searched for interesting TV programmes to watch online and help spark ideas. My poem ‘The Deep’ emerged from a documentary on the brilliantly freakish sea creatures that live in the deepest, darkest bits of the oceans.
I remembered poems are good at looking at ordinary things in a special way, so rather than just hunting for inspiration in more obviously ‘interesting’ places, I looked closer to home. My poem ‘Paean (or Eleven Uses for a Garden Pea)’ is, well, all about what a pea might be if it weren’t just sat on a dinner plate (frog football; temporary emerald for edible ring; ocean-free planet…).
Next, I forced myself to look more closely and honestly at my own experiences of life during this time. My poem ‘The Day Mum Turned into a Lion’ was written after I had an angry outburst about the house getting wildly messy during lockdown, and I then wondered what my anger felt like from the viewpoint of my son.
Last of all, I realised poems might be the best way to transport myself out of my stuck-ness. The poem that finishes my book is called ‘Free’ and was written when I was feeling very trapped and sad. The poem is a list of both ordinary and fantastical experiences of freedom: from striding across oceans to lying on the sofa watching TV with your shoes on (because why not). Writing the poem didn’t change my physical circumstances, but it did change how I felt. It gave me a taste of what freedom feels like, which was uplifting in itself and gave me a sense of hope. But above all, working on the poem reminded me of the sheer power of writing to let us reimagine ourselves and the world around us in absolutely any way we want.
Cloud Soup from Poet Kate Wakeling and illustrator Elina Braslina is out on July 15th and you can grab a copy here.