Week 1 Poem of the Week: ‘The Grave’ by Megan Latham

Our first poet of the term, Megan, discusses the lighter side to a dark concept and gives an insight into her creative process

The Grave

My aching bones
Strain against the grain of wood.
Rigid limbs
Touching corners that seemed so distant,
A youthful naivety.
The string woven through my eyes
Stops my perception
As contrasting colours merge into chrome.
Yet cracks begin to show,
As insects break into my home
Chasing the remnants of life
To feed their own souls,
Cracks that cannot be hidden
Or sealed.
Instead my spirit seeps through,
Intertwining itself with the spring breeze,
Giving my final breath to youthful seedlings.
My body rests in a rotting temple
As my life lingers in others.
For death cannot imprison
The memories of me
In a soil covered box.

Image credits: Keira Quirk

We interviewed Megan about her amazing poem after we had read it and tried to delve into all the detail behind her work!

Right from the start, Megan makes it clear that the concept of death doesn’t have to be so oppressive as it is spiritual and hopeful. She was keen to put this forward when I interviewed her, explaining that her poem “takes quite a dark theme and makes it into a ‘nice’ way of viewing death, which was one of my intentions: to show there’s more to death than just a limited box. It’s more about the effect that you had on people in life than your body being gone.”

And tied in with this concept of subversiveness, a common theme across her poetry is a sense of unexpectedness, and with the details of her poem she attempts to convey this: “The first couple of lines, where it talks about rigid limbs – I like to take that very stiff concept of pain and turn it into something that wasn’t necessarily to be expected. So the way I talk about the coffin, it’s not necessarily very obvious at first, and then there are little details, like the stitching through the eyes that get added in.”

Image credits: Keira Quirk

Adding to my own perception of the notably evocative and personal tone characterising the poem, she continued: “It’s all about bereavement, but instead of focussing on the negative sides, I wanted to focus on the cycle of life and how your body basically returns to the earth from where it came. It was something my dad said that reminded me of it, so I wanted to write on it and express that emotion and come to terms with it.”

Adding that poetry, for her, is used to rationalise experiences, or even just to explore random day-to-day impressions as they come, she highlights how her creative process is “a bit like photography”: a way of remembering even the most mundane of perceptions or experiences in writing. Thus she feels that rules are limiting, whereas she favours “throwing people off” with line placement, to prevent any sustained flow to her poetry. She adds that “if it’s a tough concept, I make it very stop-start to try and make the pace match with what’s being said.”

Image credits: Keira Quirk

Megan admits, however, that writing poetry whilst at university doesn’t come without its difficulties. “When I was younger … that was when I would write the most poetry, because it was when I had inspiration to write something random.” Because life now can be “hectic”, her preference is to do “something more mundane” to relax, even if poetry seems something of a “creative outlet” to explore and come to terms with certain emotions and attitudes at any given time.

When asked about her inspiration, she cites Shel Silverstein as a particular favourite. “I’m going to sound like a child, but I love Shel Silverstein. There’s this one poem of his that I love which is called ‘Falling Up’. It’s about the fact that we say ‘Tripping Up’ although we fall down … so he takes that concept and has this person trip and they end up flying because they’re ‘Tripping Up’. I feel like that’s where my inspiration comes from: it’s never what you expect it to be!”

And that’s it for our very first poem of the term – if you would like to be featured in one of our seven remaining weeks, please email [email protected] with your wonderful submissions. We would love to hear from you!

Feature image credits: Keira Quirk

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