I’ve recently joined a new poetry group. It’s so new that we don’t even have a name yet, but I’m enjoying the work of the other members.
One of them wrote about his time at Stirling University and included a photo of the place in the springtime. For the following month’s meeting, I visited Paisley, where I studied at what’s now the University of the West of Scotland. I’d paid a brief visit to the town centre in 2016, but it had been some years since I’d explored its other areas.
I’d expected some change, and I saw it particularly in the accommodation. There were new blocks of flats in a couple of spots, while one place I used to rent from the University had clearly been sold to a slum landlord – and the other might well have been going the same way.
I then walked up Neilston Road, which is one of the backbones of the town. From the moment I turned onto it, I began to wonder where I was. There were new tearooms with seats outside – even though it rained all day – but even taking them out of the equation, I didn’t even remember other landmarks.
There were bends in the road I didn’t recall, buildings that must have been there a century I didn’t register, and a field with cows as you head out of town that I must have seen at some point.
At least now I had a focus for my poem. One of the prompts had been ‘A letter to…’ so my piece became A Letter to Paisley, with the first lines reading:
I saw you the other day,
I’m sorry I didn’t recognise you.
But I found the opening words to be the easy part. Sometimes I can have something I really want to say, or I theme I particularly want to explore, and I find it difficult to work out how to present it.
In the rest of the piece, I muse upon the changes that have taken place and the parts I didn’t recognise, and I ponder whether it was the excitement of moving there at age 18 that caused me not to take in the details I saw on that day. I presented the piece to the group on Thursday of last week, and they helped me to make a few changes that will probably find their way into the next draft.
Strangely enough, I gained a BSc Music Technology while I was there. I didn’t do much with the qualification as it was, but I was able to use it to gain a place on the Masters degree I completed last year.