The PK Featured Poet 10 Louise Wagener
"Most people see people who use a wheelchair to help them be mobile, or people who look different, or have a different sexual orientation as something to be avoided, inconvenient, or downright strange, I see it as my job as a writer to try and put the other side of the coin..." - Louise Wagener
Louise writes with a style that is so direct and immediate that it can at times be incredibly painful, but there is a truth and honesty in her work which has always impressed me. She speaks for many people through her stunning poetry and in doing so speaks to and for us all. (Jim Bennett)
Featured Poet 9 Louise Wagener
I was born in Maghull a suburb of Liverpool 27 years ago and lived a fairly normal life for someone with hydrocephalus until I was 14 when I was diagnosed as also having Motor Neurone Disease. My parents panicked and as my condition destabilised they had me put into a long term hospital. I managed to escape from that very restrictive regime by being accepted at Liverpool University where I became part of the writing group. Unfortunately I got a cold in my second year and it just kept getting worse until it turned into pneumonia. This illness caused me to some serious health problems, so I was unable to continue at the University and have been in sheltered accommodation for the past six years in the Aughton area near Ormskirk. I expect to have to move into a hospice in the next few months, which will seriously affect my sex life.
I am still able to get out and about with some help and my quality of life is good. When it stops being as good as I want it, then I will have to take some decisions which are some way in the future at the moment. I have no intention hanging round to be a bed shitter. I picture myself as a beautiful young woman in the style of Drew Barrimore - though the truth is a bit different. I gave the following description of myself in a mail to the PK List earlier in the year.
"If I was walking along the street (something I cannot do alone) you would notice, I have a head which is too large for my body and arms and legs which are spastic and do what they want, I am as I like to say a "mong", I say it before anyone else and if anyone else said it to me they would see how able I can be when I get angry, and it does not stop me getting "company" when I want it. So as you see I have a few problems, none of which I hope makes me any different from any of you, but it does give me problems in other ways."
My condition is a deteriorating one and I like to explore these changes in poetry and in my diaries which will be Jim Bennett's when I am unable to write them any more. I used to write to the list (a few years ago when I still had access to the University computers) as Terry Skelton, which was a name I picked because I like the sound of it and I was doing a bit of stage work and stuff for JJ, but I was forced to give up for a while when I was being hounded by a pervert. I have returned to my birth name because social services can't cope with people who change their names.
How/when did you start writing?
I don't really remember, I always seem to have been writing. My mum told me that I was always to be found either reading or writing. I was asked to write an essay in school about a poem, and I eventually used nearly two thousand words for was intended to be a 300 word report. The point was that the essay had inspired me to see what the poem was about, and the effect of realising how powerful poems could be was life changing. I think I was about 9 when that happened, but even before that I had always read poems through choice.
Was there anything that particularly influenced you?
Being from just outside Liverpool, a small place called Maghull, I was influenced by all that was happening in the City. Although, when I started to notice, the Beatles and the Liverpool Scene had already split up. I was born when punk was having its day and grew up with music playing constantly. Because I was quite ill as a child I spent a lot of time out of school and in care centres where the staff let us do what we wanted most of the time. I drew, painted and wrote poems. My poetry tends to be about my life as a person who, because of health and mobility problems has to deal with lots of issues which are slightly away from most peoples experience.
Do you have any strong influences on your writing?
Relationships and TV are my preoccupations so I suppose I am strongly influenced by those and I do read a lot.
I have some poets who I really admire and who have influenced my style. Jim Bennett is without a doubt a huge influence on me and I am fortunate that he regularly gives me help and advice, he is also the editor for my poetry collection and will be my literary executor. Dave Bateman's, "Curse of the Killer Hedge" is a great book. All of the Beat writers and poets and good anthologies, I have a very well thumbed copy of "Other" for example.
How do you write? Do you have any particular method for writing - time of day?
I have never been able to get into a particular habit of writing at set times because I am sometimes physically unable to sit and write. Even when I can I have to limit it to a very short period, but I do carry a small tape recorder with me and I use that to record ideas or lines or even complete poems which come into my head.
Why do you write poetry?
Poetry enables me to communicate ideas and emotions about issues which are important to me. It is one way to ensure that some issues which would otherwise be ignored reach a wider audience.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I guess I have to thank some people who have made life a lot easier for me. Jim Bennett, who I love to pieces, I have already mentioned, John (JJ) Howard who helped me to get onto a computer and who in maintaining the PK LIST has made it possible for me to share my poetry with an audience. John Cooper Clarke has also been a real friend and his poetry is inspiring. Most people see people who use a wheelchair to help them be mobile, or people who look different, or have a different sexual orientation as something to be avoided, inconvenient, or downright strange, I see it as my job as a writer to try and put the other side of the coin and perhaps to make sure that people realise that those who are les able have lives to.
I do not write a lot because the action of writing is difficult for me, I have a tape recorder which i dictate my poems into. I am working on a collection of poetry from which the following are all taken.
This first poem is about an early relationship.
I wrote this about my first experience of real love.
This in my manifesto and the title poem from my collection.
A poem about the early days in my new home alone. When you are told you won't live past 30 then every day takes on a different priority.
This was written for Jim Bennett because
This was for Angela Duncan who is an angel now.
I think this will be the final poem in my collection.
I hope I have not depressed you all too much or left you feeling sad or despondent, or believing I can only write poems about sex. I don't see it that way. I live every day as if it was my last and I find this works for me. And that is what I write about the ups and downs, when I get it right and when I get it wrong and I am much more fortunate than a lot of people in the world, in fact I am more fortunate than a lot of the people who live in this building with me. Thanks for reading.
Thanks to the PK List for the opportunity of being a Featured Poet, (when I see the other Featured Poets and read their features I know I do not deserve to be in this company really) and thank you for reading.