Wales Arts Review is pleased to present a new series of literary vignettes, next up is ‘Chance Encounters’ by Taylor Edmonds. These vignettes will be glimpses into the thinking of the writer and their experiences; from the day-to-day to the extraordinary. They might have the intimacy of a diary entry, or have the scope of something much larger.
I’m currently working on my first portfolio submission as part of my MA in Creative Writing, and when writing, I keep finding myself returning to the idea of chance encounters. The ways in which we’re connected to each other, in ways as simple as coincidentally being in the same place at the same time, and sharing a moment with so many people without even really thinking about it beyond face value. I’m aware this is a fluffy, romanticised version of the everyday, but sometimes it really feels that way.
Some of these encounters scratch beneath the surface and have really stuck with me, finding their way into my poetry. I think of the man who I spoke to for a long time last Summer when our trains were delayed at Cardiff Central. I was worried about being late for a flat viewing when his wolfy German Shepherd rested her head in my lap. Both her owner and I were on the brink of change; I was searching for a new flat, about to go back to University, and he was weeks away from a move to Spain. He had spent the past few months in spouts of homelessness after troubles at home, crashing on the sofas of his friends and relatives. He was making the move aimless, with no job secured or solid plan, and taking his furry companion along with him. We talked about what it meant to be free, and how we both felt we’d never have enough money to own a home, me in my early twenties and him mid-forties.
Of course, not all encounters are this peaceful. I think about being catcalled and touched. I write about the man that grabbed me in the street one night and wouldn’t let me go. In my poem I give him context; a different time from our real-life encounter, a different place. I write him a background story, a runaway granddaughter that fled for the coast with a girl from church.
It’s the thought / of Lauren’s lips at another girl’s throat / that haunts him.
I give him a name, a chain-smoking habit.
I size up the strength / of his arms and legs.
I have him sit next to me as I’m sunbathing in the park.
He takes my silence / as consent / Eyes drinking me up / drinking me down.
I sometimes use my own experiences as starting off points for my poems this way. But I think it’s important to be able to mould and shape them into something else. They become what they need to be this way. Creating their own path and finding their own voice.