Clare Jay's Breathing in Colour

Way before the Facebook group Six Degrees of Separation was a twinkle in a blogger’s eye, we used to play the Kevin Bacon game. The idea was that no one was more than five people away from Kevin Bacon, and it worked every time. Example: you know me, and I know my husband, who worked on a film starring Kevin Bacon. So you are only four people away from Kevin. Cool, huh?

The same connection has happened with my writing friend, Clare Jay, who has just released her first novel, Breathing in Colour (Published by Piatkus, Little, Brown Book Group, 2009).

I met Clare two summers ago at a dream conference in Sonoma, California. A few months ago, when I was browsing Louisa Adjoa Parker’s MySpace page, I came across a photo of Clare, whom I recognized immediately because of her red curly hair and pretty eyes. I know Louisa through Jo Hemmant, so I wrote to Jo, who sent my message to Louisa, who wrote to me, and then sent my email to Clare. And now Clare and I have re-connected. I love the internets, don’t you?

Now that you’re connected to Clare, (since you know me), I recommend you visit her blog, read her bio, and order her fascinating novel. On her website you can read about her idyllic life on the beach, her studies of dreams, and her technique for entering the writer’s trance. She also shares inside information about the process of publishing a book. And leave a comment on her blog – I think she’d appreciate a warm welcome to cyber space.

Louisa Adjoa Parker's Salt-sweat and Tears

In her classic book, Writing down the Bones (Shambala, 1986), Natalie Goldberg talks about “first thoughts,” those fleeting images, feelings, and ideas that cross one’s mind before the censor of the super ego swoops in and cleans things up for polite society. Those first thoughts form the primordial soup of authentic writing, and are the gold nuggets most gritty writers dive deep to find.

A poet who has accomplished the deep diving is Louisa Adjoa Parker. Jo Hemmant (poet, editor and author of florescence) recently introduced me to Adjoa Parker’s poems, and from there I ordered her collection, entitled Salt-sweat & Tears, 2007, Cinnamon Press.

Adjoa Parker gets right to the point in her poems. She doesn’t rely on artifice to lead the reader on a symbolic goose chase, but rather opens her palm and lets us read the lines, without hiding or cowering.

The themes are not always comfortable – childhood neglect, racism, marginalization, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, death, abandonment, all held up for the reader in direct, beautiful language.

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, speaks of descriptions and paintings of monsters as sublime. We can’t call them beautiful, but they are larger than life, and when we envision them, we are in awe. That’s the effect Adjoa Parker’s poems have on me. She delves into the marrow of life, draws out the painful parts, but does so with poignant metaphors, in just a few lines.

In fact, it’s the brevity of many of her poems that strikes the reader immediately. Like dreams, good movies, or intriguing novels, Adjoa Parker begins her poems in medias res, by going straight to the bulls eye of the moment.

Salt-sweat & Tears chronicles a hard childhood and a rocky young adulthood, but the reader is left with hope at the end, as the narrator speaks of self-acceptance, of a connection to the beauty of nature, and the pleasure of simply walking the earth.