Just when the hash smokers are going out to shoplift Scotch eggs, and the neighbour is drinking milkshake, paper flowers is making paper flowers – endless strings of the things for an endless cycle of births, deaths and marriages.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2017. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2017 was Roddy Woomble.
The day before I was asked to write about my poem ‘Paper Flowers’ I was on a flight travelling between New York and London. During the flight I watched the film ‘I, Tonya’ about beleagured figure skater Tonya Harding. The actress Allison Janney playing bitch-mother LaVona wants to see the face of her daughter at the end of a critical skating routine. The camera is poised on Janney’s face – the hundred emotions that play across it even though it barely moves. A few weeks before, I’d learned how the best actors can reproduce what it is to be natural. ‘Paper Flowers’, in its own way, is an actor being natural. It’s based on a true story – the shoplifting episode; not me, someone else – and the cycles and births and deaths are trying to be natural as possible. As natural as lifting food because you’ve got no money and you’re hungry, or you are sick of being told what to do, or living a certain way. It’s one poem in a book of many poems trying to be natural as possible, and startling at the same time.