Polly Tuckett writes short fiction and poetry and has had work published in various journals. She grew up in Norwich, Brighton, London and Oxford.
She has recently been exploring the creative possibilities of combining intimate letters to Trenz Pruca, a software package ‘place-holder’, with a patchwork quilt of computer post-it notes. The project also involves diary writing addressed to a specific group of ghosts-in-the-machine (spies or angels). Each of these holds a unique position in modern literary life beyond the murky underworld of cyber-stalking. Their more ‘real’ personae, meanwhile, bear some critical or tangential relation to Polly's own position, or lack of it, within the apparently gated community of Letters. The unedited and promiscuous nature of this body of work means that it is more likely to be branded as ‘art’ than ‘literature’. Polly is experimenting throughout by implicitly blurring the private and public domains of intimate writing so that dashed off, interpersonal and ‘unfinished work’ coexists with the impersonal, high-gloss finish of published material.
Polly curates Short Fuse, a Leicester-based literary/arts organization, and runs writing workshops which emphasise the importance of intensive reading.
A Town Called Alice
My sister, Alice
A town somewhere far off
And way back
This is where we’ll go
Go and never be seen
Spread your toast
Eat up, don’t make a muck
Let’s play schools
You sit over there
I’ll be teacher
Pack your bags; it’s time we were off
Come, you’ve got crumbs down your front
Smile and be liked, Al
In the field, crouching low
Tall grasses and the bright wildflowers
I call and call
I pass right by and still you do not answer
The poem imbues my sister with a sense of place, somewhere unknown and distant. People and cities are connected in a metonymic way for me. And memory is strongly deictic, shaped by the ‘where’. My sister and I lived in a number of places, also moving between households when our parents divorced. My sister was a constant for me, steadier than any single place.
'A Town Called Alice' references the novel, A Town Like Alice, also evoked by The Jam in ‘A Town Called Malice’. Paul Weller’s lyrics are about Woking, where he grew up, but for me the associations were different. I played this song when we were about to move once more from one city to another, this time from London to Oxford, and as usual I was dragging my feet. 'A Town Called Malice' was a cool song and I was on the brink of huge change, a pre-teen with all the unreasonable hopes of adult life that this age should entertain. I listened to it constantly.
The site of a happening, the development of a self or selves, is at once hugely personal and irrelevant. I grow suspicious whenever place accrues a static and sentimentalised value. When we speak of ‘the city’ we imagine somewhere architecturally spectacular and essentially glamorous, yet cities are rarely glamorous. Nowhere is. Cities are mainly suburbs, outskirts to which the eternally youthful metropolis clings.
Utopia is a dystopia – it means ‘no place’. I used to want to move to Australia because it seemed a long way away, about as far as you could get; a mythical place of stories, space and sea.
The poem conflates our story, that of Alice and me, with a children’s story I used to read to her, Big Sister, Little Sister. I was the bossy big sister of the story. The poem is partly about escapism, about running away, but it is also about un-chosen journeys. It’s about the ‘about’. The tall grasses and poppies conjured in the concluding stanza suggest a meadow, but not necessarily a rural idyll. More like a wasteland.