"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
As Socrates so nearly said, the unexamined handbag is not worth carrying. Friend Josephine Corcoran put up a blog recently, asking fellow writers to share what’s in their bag or pockets. I tipped out my bag into my leather jacket, and examined the things I carry with me always.
In person as in my poems, I try not to carry much in the way of unnecessary crap. Inside the bag it’s more organised than this little heap suggests. I travel a lot and like to have things immediately to hand. Rummaging around in a capacious bag for something buried at the bottom is a particular image of helpless womanhood that I don’t care for. So the bag is always the same one. In it are, for those who have any interest:
The Office Pocket – cheap fountain pens, a Sharpie, a biro given to me yesterday by a bus driver in Manchester because I winked at him. A data stick, for documents I need to print at the libary. A Swiss Army knife, for picnics and nail-filing and opening impenetrable parcels and sticking into Nigel Farage’s nose if I ever meet him. Wallet and lip balm.
The Can I See Your Papers Please Pocket – my passport for impending continental adventures. Oyster card with tube map cover, for London trips. Notebook (writers really do carry notebooks. Mine is full of gnomic scribblings and a great many DVLA codes for car hire.) A laminated copy of my totem poem, Raymond Carver’s Late Fragment made for me by friend Tania to replace the one I gave away to a boater whose husband had drowned in Bristol harbour, and who found the poem comforting.
The Bare Necessities Pocket – boat keys, other keys. Domestic violence helpline lanyard from work with Women’s Aid. A keyring including a Sheffield spoon handle in case I forget where I’m from. A little torch, just like the one friend Heather carries. (What are the chances of you both buying the same torch? said her husband. Then he grinned – Oh hang on, quite high actually.) Business cards featuring my book, featuring Heather’s art. The mix tape CD I just made for beloved friend Paul.
The Glamour Pocket – for doing my make-up on the train / in the venue toilet/ in the car before the date. Lipstick and gloss, eyebrow pencil. Ibuprofen for the morning after.
The only thing missing from the picture is the phone that took it. Make of this inner life, dear reader, what you will.