Writers and strange childhood games

Two days ago, the PBS choice arrived – always a time of excitement in my house.  I love getting books in the post.  This quarter’s choice is Paul Farley’s ‘The Dark Film’.  He’s not a poet that I’ve read very much, so I was looking forward to reading it.  I absolutely loved the book and would recommend anybody go and read it if you haven’t already.  I haven’t read any poetry for about  a month now because I’ve been making my way through ‘Game of Thrones’ and been slightly addicted to them, but Farley got me back onto reading poetry.  I’m now half way through Bernadine Evaristo’s ‘Lara’ – again, an amazing book – can’t believe I’ve not come across it till now!

Anyway, what became apparent as I was reading The Dark Film was that Paul Farley played rather odd games as a child, or as I should say more correctly, the speaker in the poem did.  My favourite was ‘Quality Street’, where the voice of the poem sits down and looks at the world through the sweet wrappers.  He says

“The wrapper of a strawberry cream
     unpeels a vivid red to dye
 the evening bloody monochrome”


“a dog crossing the square is flayed
     alive, leaves bloody tracks
and looks back with a blood-bright eye”

In “The Airbrake People” he creates a whole race of people attached to that exhalation of sound that a bus makes ( I assume this is what he means) He says

“They spoke to me.  Or spoke to something in me.
And that’s when I decided they were people,

a lost tribe come right to the edge of their woods”

The whole books is full of these strange ways of looking at the world.  And something that is hard to articulate, but I think he has captured brilliantly within the whole book – when I was growing up, I often used to pretend I was in a scene from a film, and I’d be planning my sound track etc instead of paying attention to what was going on around me.  Every poem in the book is filmic – and I wondered if Paul Farley used to play the same game –

And then that started me wondering, was it just writers who played these introverted games, or do all children do this?  I don’t have children you see, and I grew up with a twin sister, but we used to play rather odd games together that we would never have dreamed of playing with our friends.  For instance, we used to have this big tub of plastic animals that we used to move inch by inch up the stairs and then we would scrunch the duvet up in our bedroom to make caves and all the animals would then be sorted into their various types.  Each one had it’s own particular voice.  We even had a theme tune for ‘sad’ moments, like if one of the animals fell down the stairs. 

I used to lie down and look up at the ceiling and imagine being very small and the room being upside down, so I would be walking on the ceiling, and what the light fixtures would look like and what would I think they were.  I think I was a strange child! 

I also used to give the raindrops personalities as they were running down the windows – the fat ones being greedy and swallowing all the other raindrops up.  I used to look out of the car window and pretend I was galloping alongside on a horse, even though I’d never ridden a horse.

So I wanted to know if the writers that read this played odd little games on their own, like looking through Quality Street wrappers to turn the world a different colour, or giving raindrops on a window personalities, or do all children do these things?

If you would like to order the Paul Farley book details below.  I couldn’t find a specific website for Paul Farley, but there is absolutely tons of stuff about him on various websites – google him!

The Dark Film, Paul Farley, Picador Poetry, 9.99, ISBN 978-0-330-46123-8


3 comments on “Writers and strange childhood games

  1. I think all children are creative to begin with, but once the school curriculum takes hold, creativity isn’t given enough attention. The older we get the harder it is to tap into the unique way of experiencing the world that children have. Children respond to things in an amazingly poetic way, when my daughter was about four she saw a spider’s web that had lots of little raindrops on it, all glistening, and she said ‘look the spider has got his lights on’, that’s quite a sophisticated metaphor and one that most adults would never be able to come up with when faced with a wet spider’s web. I suppose the good news is we can get it back, if we try hard enough – that’s what I keep telling myself anyway.

  2. Hi Janet, you are right, I think children are inherently creative, and it is whether this is explored or encouraged. That is a lovely metaphor as well!
    I guess what I was trying to get at, and maybe didn’t explain very well, is whether other writers played these strange introverted games as children, or whether all children play those sorts of games….

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