Mary Tyler Moore said that sometimes you have to get to know someone really well to realise you’re really strangers. Arthur Schopenhauer said that almost all our sorrows spring out of our relations with other people. I think they’d have made a lovely couple.
In just over a week, my book of poetry, Couples, is to be published by Valley Press. I’m very excited about this. It’s been a long process and it’s very satisfying to finally see it reach fruition.
A few years ago, while editing a book of poetry, I became mindful of the relationship between the left and right hand page of a book, of the two poems on either side. There they were, pressed up against each other, attached and yet separate. Staring across at each other, or staring out at the world. Only coming together, significantly I felt, when the book was closed and they were in darkness. At the same time, I was taken by a photograph by Martin Parr which depicted an old couple in a greasy spoon cafe. They were sitting at a table, a single slice of bread and butter between them, staring through each other, into the abyss.
I was chilled by this image. I started to write ‘couples’ of poems that would connect with each other, talk to each other, or sit uncomfortably next to each other. I wanted the left hand poem and the right hand poem to be in an uneasy relationship with each other. The result is a blackly comic sequence of 24 poems – 12 pairs (He/She, Me/You, Him/Her, and so on), that explore the dynamic of co-dependency: two people who want to be together but at the same time are pushing away from each other. It is this dynamic, of needing security, needing stability, but at the same time wanting to be an individual, of wanting to reject the other, that I am interested in exploring here.
I have an ambition for the book and it is this, at some point in the future, two people will meet up. Their conversation will go something like this:
Person A: Hey, how you doing? Great to see you.
Person B: Hey, great to see you too. What you been up to?
Person A: You’re not going to believe this. I’ve met someone.
Person B: You? You’ve met someone? Really? You’re in a relationship?
Person A: Well, it’s early days. But I think that’s where it’s heading.
Person B: Listen mate, have you read Couples by Michael Stewart?
Person A: No, I’ve not.
Person B: Well, before you go any further, I suggest you do.
The book is published, rather fittingly, on the 14th of February 2013. I like to think of it as an antidote to Valentine’s Day. For more information about the book, including tour dates, please go to: http://www.valleypressuk.com/books/couples/