Are You Really Here, or Are You a Figment of My Imagination: The Poetry of Sarah Chapman

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As a preparation for what most definitely will become an awesome year at the Writer’s Block editorial board, I ventured into some unknown literary territory during the last summer holidays. I never read much poetry, so I decided to finally do something about that and ended up reading an anthology published by the British Black & BLUE collective. The literary collections of Black & BLUE do not merely consist of poems, but also feature music lyrics, textual art and even sharp-witted Facebook statuses. Furthermore, all anthologies are delightfully well-designed. So, needless to say, I ended up really enjoying this varied collection of creative writing.

There was one author in particular who really struck me with her work. Being a film student, I was quickly drawn to the poems of Sarah Chapman, who often seems to reflect on visual media like film and photography in her writings. A quick Google search taught me that Sarah is a talented twenty-something, who lives and works in London. Most of her poems are rather short in length, and always characterized by playful line breaks and a great sense of rhythm. Sarah’s fascination for film quickly becomes apparent when she uses poem titles like ‘Memories of a Korean Horror Film’ or, more bluntly, ‘Morgan Freeman’ and ‘Rachel Weisz’. But there’s more to it than that.

In daily life, films and photographs can influence the thoughts about your past and present life in tricky ways. Sarah seems to understand the duality involved here. She acknowledges that writing poetry is a way to create fake memories, just like visual media do. But are such false recollections necessarily a bad thing? Sarah starts her poem ‘The Last Waltz’ by daydreaming of an old photograph, and ends up describing her personal utopia: “a cinema, on a boat, in Paris”. Then again, in ‘Cinema Dates Are Dates for the Dead’ we read how ridiculous people look when they’re wearing 3D glasses in the movie theater. Is the escapism provided by film and photography blissful, or just naive? Read Sarah Chapman’s work and start pondering.

But Sarah’s poems are also about the current state of mind of her own generation. The generation to which you and I belong as well. The generation that’s constantly obsessed with how peers will perceive them. The honest truth is contained in phrases like “I don’t want to become one of those people who looks at everyone to see if they’re looking at them”, or “you send me emails that make me think you are trying to tell me that you’re doing something great with your life”.

Fortunately, Sarah is also able to amicably forgive the flaws of her contemporaries. In the end, she knows that what we all really want is to “sleep groggy in Spiderman pyjamas”. It’s this charming combination of melancholy, enjoyment and wit that made me fall in love with her writings. Just like films and photographs, Sarah Chapman’s poetry makes me feel something, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

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(Header image courtesy of Tourism on the Edge)

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