Last Friday evening, after 4 ½ years of writing What the horses heard, I finally opened the book in front of a crowd of people to read aloud what had been written.
Six poets: Moira Lake, Graham Burchell, Julie-ann Rowell, Fenella Montgomery, Jennie Osborne and Rosie Barrett generously supported me by reading their own stunning poems with a horse in each one. Three of those poems were specially written for the occasion and all of them released something very magical into the air that night. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was indeed a truly thrilling experience.
I admit I had been sick with nerves about this most of the week, if not many weeks beforehand. By that evening I was comforted by a certainty that I had had very little part in the writing and that somehow it had mysteriously happened somehow – so that when kind people started buying the book and even queuing to ask me to sign it (as if the name on the cover was mine) it was a surprise.
With its beautiful cover (thanks to Jan Jones’ kind permission to let me use an Anthony Amos painting and Cinnamon’s wonderful design) the writing on the pages between front and back cover has a lot to live up to. I still don’t think I did write this book: I tell you now it was Cass. She is one of the three siblings in the story. She came through as such a strong personality almost from the start she nagged me into making this happen: all the research in the Imperial War Museum, at the Friends’ House Library in Euston and at the Army medical Museum that I undertook, all the books I read, the constant experiments I made with the writing were to bring about her intentions.
Thank you to Jan Fortune at Cinnamon Press for her uplifting words and for believing in this book from the start, to all the many people who attended the launch and a special thanks to all the poetry community without whose support over many years I would never have written this. Also to the 19th century nature writer Richard Jefferies who gave me the initial impetus.
I am still feeling euphoric and elated about the fantastic evening – but also raw and exposed as people begin to read the words on the pages which may bring the story of Cass and her brothers, the other characters as well as the horses to life for them. The words come alive as they read…as
Billy Collins writes in Introduction to Poetry:
‘ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light like a colour slide
or press an ear against its hive
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out…’ I am hoping some people will do this with ‘Horses’…. and perhaps find they do hear a little of what horses hear. It is more than daunting.