Week 1 Poem of the Week: “Looking Up from a Book” by Alice Weatherley

Alongside her original poem, we spoke to Alice about her love for poetry and her main writing inspirations

Looking Up from a Book

To live and lead by heart
And mind of: ‘much’,
Is to be with an unkind kind of touch
Of those who live with the giving
And by living, outliving
Yet another ache to restart.

To be pressed to the flat of the folder
(Precautious, appeasing)
Behind ‘An Introduction to Critical Reading’.
In need, revised —
For ninety minutes — advertised
While the clock sweats over the shoulder.

Months, months to learn
And to fight
The theories of those at night
Are smothered with a chloroform sigh by sunlight

But, now, I have curtains that cannot shut.
They remind me how day breaks but you do not,
You cannot.
I don’t know why

the first A+ is to be told: ‘Never enough.’

Image credits: Keira Quirk

After reading this fantastic poem, we spoke to Alice – a first-year English student at Trinity – about her love for writing, her favourite poets, and, of course, her poem.

She introduces ‘Looking up from a Book’ first off as a poem which, “deals with precision, freedom, and how we exist when we are familiar with ourselves as precise as opposed to free (and vice versa). Alongside this is the exploration of ‘seeing things in a new light’, and perhaps being daunted by a transparency in the process.

“I guess I started by writing pop songs when I was 10 or 11, being slightly obsessed with becoming a singer-songwriter. Making the conscious decision to write ‘poetry’ didn’t come until I was 13, and then it was expectedly angsty. When I think about it, though, all I’ve probably done is refine that angst. Everything I’ve written has always been (or has always tried to be) quite emotionally violent.”

Rather than focusing on completing every piece she begins, she considers that “most of the time is spent editing and developing existing thoughts.” That said, she still writes often, and she largely sticks to traditional methods: “It’s always with pen and paper because I feel far more spontaneous and connected to the thoughts, which I think is common. Though I am slowly having a go at poetry writing on my laptop, mainly to see if things come out differently or find coherence a bit quicker.”

Image credits: Keira Quirk

Reflecting on the poets and poems which have particularly inspired her throughout the years, she lands on a couple of examples. “I really hated attempting anything rhymed up until a couple of years ago, when Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ shifted my thinking quite significantly. I vividly remember being struck by its musicality, reciting it to myself over and over and then searching online for different people reading it aloud — I want to write poetry with that same quality most of all.

“Thematically, I think a great inspiration of mine is Richard Siken. Our forms differ, but I aspire towards this weighted, powerful vulnerability that he’s able to convey through, often, very simple language. If I published a collection I’d aim for storytelling as compelling as that in Siken’s Crush. It’s often characterised by its exploration of the fine line between love and obsession, a theme I can never really leave alone in my own writing. It’s definitely somewhere in ‘Looking Up From a Book’.”

Intriguing – I shall have to check it out.

Image credits: Hannah Huang

When reading in general, she says, “I love it when a poem is cleverer than me. I like to feel exposed and caught out by them; the shock of having a previously murky, even undiscovered feeling suddenly laid out before you is, for me, the most fantastic part of literature, and how poetry’s collective nature is derived from the intensely personal.”

And, of course, I was curious to ask why she chose to submit her poem to The Tab – after all, there are a vast number of outlets in Cambridge for student writers to publish their work. About this, she says, “The Tab is something I started following pretty much immediately after arriving in Cambridge, so I was hugely excited to submit something when I heard about ‘Poem of the Week’. This will be first time I’ve had my poetry published, and I’m so grateful that it can be in such a leading example of student media.”

Well, I for one am sure that it won’t be the last time Alice has her poetry published – good luck to her in the future, and to our readers, keep an eye out for her name!

If you, too, would like to have an original poem of yours featured in The Tab, we would be simply delighted to hear from you: submissions are open now, just email your poem to [email protected] (check out our submission guidelines in the original article here). We can’t wait to hear from you!

Feature Image Credits: Keira Quirk

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