They will be performing Ronald Beckett’s setting of my poem for “The Woman Beside the Lake Is Reading” voice and four instruments at their October 14th concert!
Everyone is told “Write what you know.” This doesn’t mean just “write what you, personally, have experienced.” It means “write everything you know about,” which includes everything you’ve ever read, seen, or been told. Your knowledge of life is much bigger than your own existence! So, although I often draw on my own life for incidents that seem fraught with meaning, I see myself as an individual example of universal events. That is, I use my own life as a repository of people and places through which I can explore subjects that interest me.
All that being said, “The Woman Beside the Lake Is Reading” is pretty straightforwardly autobiographical! My husband and I had rented a cottage near Bala for a week. Our son was seven at the time, and our daughter was four. They did the stuff I describe. The book I was trying to read was The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy. But beyond these particular details, the poem speaks to larger revelations that break every parent’s heart: you can’t really protect your children because you can’t really know everything that is happening to them.