‘Slow living and slow writing is what I try to do.’
Gerry Loose begins his In Process Masterclass with the opening lines of Pablo Neruda’s ‘Keeping Quiet:”Now we will count to twelve/And we will all sit still,’ perfectly describing the reflective and intimate atmosphere as we settle in to a discussion with Gerry about his own writing practice, his relationship to nature and politics, and his most recent project, An Oakwoods Almanac.
For Gerry, the act of walking and observing his surroundings creates a harmony between body and mind, which in turn affects his writing process. When walking in Japan once, an old woman he had asked for directions led him by the hand to where he was trying to go. He describes feeling like a child again, being taken somewhere without intention. Similarly, when making notes of his surroundings on walks, Gerry harnesses the element of chance, as no two walks ever present the same encounters with nature. These two elements—giving oneself up to something, and the element of chance—inform both Gerry’s experience of nature, and his approach to writing poetry as he strives “to take you by the hand and give you something utterly unexpected, something simple.”
The writing process for An Oakwoods Almanac is a wonderful example of Gerry as the writer allowing himself to be led onto a different path. Having gone deep into the woods to write poetry, he found that the poems wouldn’t come. Instead, the collection took the shape of a prose diary, woven of reflections on nature, woodland and the way that people live alongside the natural world. This form, he says of the process, materialised when he did not try too hard to extract anything from his experiences in the woodlands, instead describing his observations and thoughts.
Gerry talks of his search for that moment at which, when walking, he forgets himself because of his immersion in his surroundings; his writing is an attempt to document and recreate this escape from the ego. Asked by a member of the audience how this departure of subjectivity is possible, he admitts that it may not always happen, but that it remains, nonetheless, an idea to strive towards.
Towards the end of the evening, Gerry speaks of the political in his writing process, saying “nothing encountered does not concern politics.” His 2014 collection Fault Line (Vagabond Voices) tells of his time spent walking around the perimeter fence of the nuclear base at Faslane. Gerry points out that animals and plants are ambivalent to the perimeter fence there, flying over it, tunnelling underneath, and growing through it. In Scotland, he notes, it seems as though all animals are politically contested, as creatures like sheep and grouse have obvious political statuses. Although he does not view his poetry about Faslane as polemical, Gerry does consider it—and all his work—political in an existential sense.
We wrap the evening up by calling out numbers, the corresponding pages of which Gerry reads out to us from Fault Lines—beautifully bringing an evening of nature, poetry, and writing practice back to the theme of chance, and so full circle to its close.