Thursday, 4 February 2016

Kristina Bray Poetry

 Kristina is a member of the MEspace Facebook group and she posts poems that she writes to help,  inspire or entertain us and...  I 'get' them. I,  not only 'get' them,  but some of them really speak to me and stir my emotions. Some I understand because I've lived what they describe,  in metaphor or reality.  Some I understand because her sublime use of language paints a picture in my mind of what she writes of. Here are just a few of her wonderful poems.

War and Peace 
There was a time I would have called me poor. 
With strife and struggle and with bills to pay.
There were long days when life seemed like a war
A battle joined with every passing day. 
Yet now, looking upon you while you sleep
I can’t but see how fortunate I am
And welling up with gratitude I smile
And thank God for holding me in his hand.

If I Could Fly
If I could fly, my body not weighed down,
No longer this hurt, cumbersome old thing
I would away and soar into the clouds
To breathe in every air of rising Spring.
Each scent, each breeze would fly into my soul,
The flowers perfume and the new turned earth
Would fill both breath and lung and wake the whole

Each part of me ignited in new birth. 
I'd touch and clasp and feel each blade of grass 
Each yellow cowslip dreaming on the hill. 
The snowdrop's glow would lie upon my skin 
The crocus and narcissus both would fill 
My dreaming heart to bursting with the their joy. 
No longer would I feel sorrow or pain 
I'd have no clever tricks now to employ 
And no longer would weep at 
thoughts of rain 
Or long for those days when I could stride free 
And unencumbered on the rising hills 
Whose dips and hollows were a part of me 
And whose sight could my weary spirit fill 
When I was all alone. Instead, I'd dip 
My feathered form and dance along the spring 
To dampen my dark feathers in the flow 
Then rise again to float and fly and sing

And my poor soul, ecstatic, then would glow.
So, running through me, all the thrill of life
Should chide away the winter's chill embrace
And wipe away the memory of strife.
So then the breach that sometimes make me frown
Should be closed up by freedom's warm embrace
And my world weary self now born anew
Alive and singing, with a smiling face.
I have only met Kristina online,  but her generous spirit and her courage stood out to me and so I wanted to know more about her and her poetry. Here's her story:

When did you start writing poetry? 
 I've been writing poetry since I was three. Sounds crazy but I was! I used to run up to people and tell them poems that I had made. My first story was written around the same age and went like this "If I ever met the devil I would go and get a water pistol and I would shoot him with it and yell "yah booh sucks!". Not exactly pulitzer material but it still got put on the fridge, lol.
I got my first poem published when I was fourteen in an American anthology and have since had it appear in collections and magazines with readerships from places like Zimbabwe to Russia. I am told that a copy of one of the magazines with my poetry in it is on file at the University of St Petersburg! (I think that's the name, anyway). As I think I've mentioned before the publishing side has died off a bit over the past 18 months because I've been so ill - I was in hospital twice last year in danger of my life. Still, I'm hoping to start re submitting in the new year.
Have you been to any classes? 
I've never done a specific poetry class, just the usual English classes etc at school. I was very lucky, though, in that I was encouraged to read and have always enjoyed poetry books. I also took a creative writing class at University that covered both prose and poetry. I really enjoyed that as it was taught in the form of a workshop where people wrote stories and poems and then shared them before discussing them. It was a thought provoking and challenging atmosphere and I loved it.

What do you like to write about? 
Silly as it sounds I write about anything and everything. I tend to be like a magpie. Or maybe I should just say that I'm nosy! I'm always looking around and recording what's going on around me - the weather, the conversations, the people. Sometimes I get just the grain of an idea and have to work to make it come out. Other times the poem pops into my head practically fully formed. I've taken to carrying notebooks around with me so that I can jot them down on the run if they arrive when I'm out - that way they don't get lost to the brain fog. I can also be inspired by images or by conversations that I have with people. One poem that I wrote was originally inspired by a conversation with a lady at a bus stop! I'm often asked to come up with poems to give as gifts to family members or to mark a birth, death or anniversary etc. It can be a bit of a challenge as a "poem" can mean so many things. For example I've been shouted at before for using the wrong person or tense or style. So I tend to ask what sort of poem they are after or send them a "style sheet" with a few examples before asking for the details of the person and what they would like the poem to say. Even then it sometimes takes a while but its worth it when it helps someone to celebrate a happy event or comforts someone after a loss. To be honest, I like to write things that touch people and make them think, maybe that makes them look at the world a little bit differently. That's the aim, anyhow.

What inspires you? 
I guess I've covered some parts of inspiration above but here a few other things that inspire me.
People, most of all. I love people. I'm always chatting away to somebody or other - you can probably tell that by my posts - and the good that I see in people, the kindness that they show each other and the small things that they do out of kindness, never expecting to be seen, often have the power to stir a poem inside me.
Sometimes I'm inspired by my own feelings. If I'm sad or struggling with my condition I tend to channel it through verse. There's something very comforting about putting your fears and anxieties down in verse and then seeing it all come to a conclusion. It can be incredibly cathartic.
I am also inspired by my faith. I'm not religious per-se but somehow, growing up in a household where nobody went to church and God wasn't really discussed I found myself believing in him from the time that I was a toddler. I don't believe in fights between concepts that cause wars but I do believe in an essential goodness that underpins the world and I guess that some of that comes out in my work. 

Does it help you to cope? 
Yes! Oh goodness yes! Writing does help me cope. I think without it I wouldn't have survived this far. From a miserable kid growing up in a violent home to killing myself working my way through uni to being diagnosed and my partner having his accident, having to care for him full time while my own health went into a nose dive and then I collapsed - all of it, somehow, got written down. 
It helps me so much to get the emotions out onto the page, to put them down into orderly lines of sentences. On the one hand it makes the distress feel a little less immediate. On the other hand seeing my emotions written down can also help me to think about what is going on and how I want to change it. If nothing else writing poetry can remind me that life can be beautiful and magical, even with a dodgy old body like mine (lol!)
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia when I was twenty after becoming incredibly ill in my last year of university, and with M.E. shortly thereafter.    However, I have experienced extreme pain and fatigue for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is being a two year old and waking my mum up crying with the pain in my wrists and my ankles. I still experience it and it feels like having nails hammered through my wrists and ankles. As a little girl with no idea what was causing it the pain and fear was horrendous. Family members now refer to it jokingly as "crucifixion". So, in fact I've probably had M.E. since I was an infant.
Sadly, home life wasn't good when I was a child and my illness was never investigated. Instead I was told off for being "lazy" and "attention seeking". (There was a lot of physical abuse going on when I was a kid, which may or may not have contributed to me developing M.E.) So I spent most of my childhood struggling to keep up with the increasing demands of life and wondering if I was crazy. I just couldn't understand why other people didn't go to bed at night crying in agony.   When I finally got a diagnosis at twenty the first thing that I felt was relief!   The diagnosis also explained why I kept getting so easily confused and sometimes did very silly things without realizing it (phew!).
Alongside M.E. I suffer from Arthritis, Type II Diabetes, Anxiety, Depression, Panic attacks, Sleep Apnea, Tactile Allodynia, Hiatus Hernia, Acid Reflux IBS, Raynauds, Blackouts and Immune Dysfunction. I also suffer from back and neck pain. Obviously, my medical conditions have an impact on my writing. In a physical sense I can only type from time to time as my fingers swell up hugely with the Arthritis and on bad days it makes it impossible for me to write as they curl in towards my wrists and become pretty useless. However, it does mean that when I can write it makes it even more special than it would be otherwise.
Writing has always been a massive help to me. It allows me to channel my feelings about illness, to escape from reality when the pain and fatigue is too much, to create other worlds in my mind and allow others to see them. It makes me happy. Sometimes it makes me a bit crazy. I'm never more content than when ideas are bouncing around in my head and demanding to be written.When I can't sleep for the pain and I feel like I'm going to gnaw my limbs off writing helps me to get away from the hurt. It cheers me up. It releases me. Sometimes its the simple act of getting things down. Others its the idea of people reading the things that I've written and enjoying them.

Writing also helps with the frustration of being ill. In spite of my pain etc I have always worked - I had my first job at ten and was helping to pay for myself and support the family ever since I got my first full time job at fifteen. I worked three jobs all the way through college and worked my way through university too - with the aid of a few sleepless nights, lol. Even when I first got together with my other half and he had his head injury I was working full time as well as acting as a full time carer for him. So, when I collapsed and wound up in hospital from exhaustion the decision to stop working was difficult but essential.
Leaving full time work was essential for my health. Trying to work as both a carer and a full time salesperson had been literally, physically killing me. Still, I might not have been able to deal with it if I hadn't been able to keep up with my writing. It gives me a sense of purpose when I'm getting frustrated with being stuck at home and a sense of freedom when I'm getting cabin fever.   I also still hope at some point to get more work published. Having that as a goal to work towards is a massive help.   Finally, knowing that people enjoy my work gives me a massive boost and always makes me smile.