(Passenger – “Caravan” with Ed Sheeran, Stu Larsen, Natsuki Kurai and Bree Bullock in Brisbane)
Monday, 7th March 2016
I went to see the movie Brooklyn earlier this afternoon at the Ritz Cinema in Randwick with Georgia. Mom told me about it a few weeks ago (one of those recommendations hidden as a command: “Have you heard of Brooklyn? Go and see this movie!” Thanks Mom!)
I brought my notebook, just in case.
I have this thing with movies. Or concerts. Or plays. Or poetry readings. Or any kind of performance, really, of which I am an audience member: I have a higher likelihood of being struck down by inspiration.
I’m not entirely sure when I realised this. It’s possible I’ve done it for years without noticing, but it became very apparent at some point during my PhD in Edinburgh — during which time, my days were categorised into a few “productive” periods, and many, many more “unproductive” periods. I became determined to hunt down the pattern of productive periods. One very reliable writing technique: listen to the same song on repeat, over and over, while staring out the window. Another: to write down my dreams as soon as I woke up in the morning. And another: go out. Anywhere. Listen to something, watch an event. And write.
This happened in the park, just observing other people. At poetry readings in Charlotte Square. On the train. Train platforms were a big favourite. All the way back to the short-lived Midnight Edinburgh poem series with Corinne (for which we wandered around Edinburgh at all hours of the night and made up our own writing prompts).
It became apparent that the way to get myself to write was — in fact — to do virtually anything else. (Jacob! I remembered what I wanted for my birthday: I’d love some movie ticket vouchers so I can keep going to movies by myself and getting inspired.)
I don’t have too many theories about this. I mean, I’ve considered why I seem to be prolific in the dark, distracted, writing short notes in scribbles by feel. I’m distracted from my own over-thinking. Letting my hand trace the page, while my mind runs wild, fed by external stimuli and expert storylines. But I’m loathed to over-analyse it. I don’t want the magic to disappear.
So when I venture out, I bring along a pocket moleskine and sketch out thoughts and reflections if I feel so inclined. I also aim to bring along a friend who understands these inclinations — like when Nikki brought me to the Peter Doig exhibit and I spent most of the time scribbling in a notebook instead of carefully considering the paintings (hey! I got two of those poems published eventually! Thanks, Nikki!). Georgia was a great tolerator of my notebook today. I say tolerator, but she actually enjoyed it: “We sat down and I thought, is Emma really writing right now? Yes, she is. Of course, she is.”
These notes and jottings are more of linguistic sketches than anything else. Rarely, do they amount to a poem. Even more rarely, do they build the scaffolding of anything else. Brooklyn is poised to be a big exception, which is where these chronicles come in.
I came home with a few pages of notes, a huge hole in my chest where my heart used to be (I spent most of the movie crying it out for various reasons), and a rough outline of maybe 14 blog posts.
This is not a critical analysis of Brooklyn, John Crowley’s 2015 movie. Nor is it a love letter to Nick Hornby (who wrote the screenplay) and Colm Tóibín, although that could be its unintended destination. This is a journey, a reflection of how Brooklyn touched me, and the associations it pulled and triggered from the depths of my ex-patriot personal experience.
I am not an Irish woman leaving home in 1951 for the foreign shores of America, drifting alone into the streets of Brooklyn. But if there were ever a more apt description of what the past few years of my life has felt like, I guess I might have written it myself. In lieu of that, I prescribe this movie to anyone who has ever experienced, witnessed, or survived the crippling plague of displacement, homesickness, doubt, and wonder.
In the next 14 posts, I’ll probably spend a good deal of effort chasing down the feelings that swam through my heart, and my eyes, and my hands at the Ritz this afternoon.
There should be very few spoilers, insomuch as I assume you might figure out that Brooklyn is a movie about a girl who emigrates to America from Ireland. If that’s a spoiler, sorry!
The rough ideas:
- Value beyond money.
- Emigrating: the loneliness of a new country.
- Unusual things I love.
- What and who we miss.
- Where are you from?
- Community: new Christian values.
- Musical memories.
- Inherent knowledge and the fraud.
- Earnestness is so sincere.
- Intimacy: nonverbal translations.
- From the outside.
- What we endure.
- What we build.
I also plan to download Colm Tóibín’s novel and neatly speed read it. I wonder who will finish first: the book, or these reflections.
It’s nice to finally organise some thoughts on this. This being: living abroad. The pattern and style of the life I’m building. I’ve been asked about it so many times, but it’s like the fish who is unable to see the water they’re swimming in. It’s just… my life. Living outside my comfort zone has become too normalised to know where to begin to deconstruct it.