Both Anne Lamott and Sharon Olds taught me to write what I know. Before I read their work I did this by composing journal entries and secret stories which I hid in a blue tub under my bed. After I read their work I continued to write what I knew, just more often and publicly, until I was convinced that this was the best thing I could do with my words. This doesn’t mean I only produce life-writing – far from it – but it does mean that my poetry, prose, and short stories are laced with a kind of truth that I hope my readers find honest and engaging.
Given my love of writing what I know, I was thrilled to be invited to co-lead a new workshop series called ‘Writing Our Lives’. This series, born from a partnership between the Butetown History & Arts Centre and the Hayatt Women’s Trust, is designed to encourage black and minority ethnic women, refugees, and asylum seekers to write about their own lives, the lives of their families, and their experiences of living in Cardiff. The series aims to produce an e-book which will give readers a better understanding of cultural differences, minority and immigrant life, and other relevant experiences which could be valuable to young people and community members.
I have only led one session so far but it was a great success! The women were invested, creative, and told me things about this city that I never knew. Together we created a collective poem which unites our varied experiences of Cardiff, from Butetown to Roath:
As new visitors enter Cardiff the bus station has a dreaded orange look –
mulitculturalism and friendliness of people in general,
groups of women in stylish hijabs and men in various dress styles pass
through to the tent beyond to smoke the waterpipes.
You can have a nap by the time Cardiff traffic lights change.
Trying to get into the City Hall to see what it was like inside,
this city crawls with blackberries, there for the taking: I make jam.
Hope lies at the edge of the lake.