By Kyla Reda
Mara Avoth is writer, poet, and actor, born and raised in London, UK. The daughter of an actor and a dancer, she was immersed in a world of stories and art from a young age, making it a natural transition for her to develop her own creative voice. She has compiled many notebooks full of imaginings over the years, gradually developing those into larger stories. When the first lockdown came a few years ago, Mara started writing a poem, or part of a poem, every day as a way of finding an escape and processing her emotions. She also began experimenting with writing screenplays, and eventually spent a summer in the LAMDA Shakespeare Summer Course where she fell in love with acting as another form of storytelling.
Below you can read three of Mara’s poems, along with her annotations for each, digging deep into her inspirations and stylistic decisions.
A lot of my earlier poetry focuses on the body and sexuality, but I was inspired by Seamus Heaney’s ‘Follower’ and ‘Blackberry-Picking’, and the themes of family, sunlit recollections, and farmland that both of these poems share. When writing ‘The Summer Field’ I spent time thinking about the feelings that the Heaney poems had stirred within me, and his use of childhood memories. It inspired me to find a specific memory of my own to immortalize.
A lot of my summers have been spent in the British countryside, staying with family and friends. One place we continue to return to is a house built into a rock face, surrounded by red sandstone cliffs: my dad taught me how to climb one to get to a rope swing that would launch you off a cliff edge and into a holly bush.
But the cliff face went higher, and curious child as I was, I wanted to go up to the top. I would hold on to these tufts of long grass that were so coarse they created irritated red stripes across my palms. However, the climb down from that cliff face was more precarious, and had a greater chance of me falling backwards and hurting myself once I’d reached a high enough point that I had to choose either to carry on, or stay there forever. No matter how many times I scaled the side of that cliff, there would always come a moment where fear struck me.
I wrote this poem in March of this year, though it was inspired by the memory of a summer evening many years ago. If I had to date it, I’d say around 2007, when I was still quite a young child, and remembering this time feels suitably hazy. At the time, it felt very different from the rest of my catalogue, playing a lot more with the softer nostalgic themes of a rosey childhood memory and nature. I see this poem as a development in my craft, opening myself up to writing about new themes and softer memories. It’s one of my favourites that I’ve written so far.
Written straight after graduating university, this poem is inspired by the profound sense of drifting and the constant question of “what next?”. I have been asked that question so much in the lead up to graduation and in its immediate aftermath, and the answer is to create and breathe and rest, but there is always an implied “and…”.
It is a poem that differs in style to others in my catalogue, being a little shorter and more conversational than my others. Typically, I see my work falling into patterns of solos or choruses, however, the nature of this piece coincides with the theme: reaching for affinity.
The conversational tone of the poem developed from the first line, “[w]e’re all drifting aren’t we,” which was the first line that I conceived of when writing this work. From there, I mind-mapped the emotions and imagery that I associated with the line, and built the poem downwards. Sometimes using this process means that the formative line gets blended into the middle of the poem or used at the end, but in this case it felt like a first line.
I usually title my pieces with ‘working title’ or ‘no working title’ before I come up with one that works with the piece, however, this time I felt that keeping the title in this liminal space that my unfinished works sit in added to the sense I had of being finished with what I know and waiting for everything else to begin.
‘The Regulars’ is inspired by a week of late nights with two of my best friends, Andie and Ellie, where we kept returning to certain places and going on long walks at midnight. The two stanzas capture the shared imaginings we had had about becoming weekly regulars in a pub we came to love. We talked about what we’d do, who we thought we’d see again, and when we would go there. We are all tipping over the precipice of ‘real’ adulthood, which is quite a daunting prospect at times, so the idea of being able to have a place that was routine was a nice prospect to fantasize about. We hope it becomes reality.
The two middle stanzas were inspired by a 2 ½ mile walk from Soho to Primrose Hill that the three of us went on. It was quiet and still warm, the heat didn't go down much overnight in late July, but the breeze made it bearable, and the company made it better.
The final stanza is a repetition of the opening lines. Stylistically, using repetition for emphasis is something I am familiar with, though I try not to overuse it for maximum narrative impact. At the time, the intended effect of the repetition was to emphasize the longing for regularity, making the poem quite mournful. However, in the time that has passed since I wrote it, my interpretation and feelings towards it have changed. To me, the repetition is hopeful, the potential of more nights like those in the future. In a way, it is almost a promise.
‘The Regulars’ is, to a certain extent, a companion poem to ‘No Working Title Yet’, as they were written in quick succession, and link to the same period (same week even!) of my life. It plays on the shared theme of drifting, being one of many, together but apart. It is an emotion that has permeated a lot of my work lately, impacted by the end of university, and the suspension of being in my early twenties.
As you can see, Mara is a well-rounded writer with a talent for capturing a single emotion or moment and preserving it in the lines of a poem. If you’d like to follow along with her creative journey, you can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @maraavoth.
And in Mara’s words:
“Storytelling is the connective tissue of the world. We need stories like we need air. Reality is a difficult place to inhabit, stories allow us to connect and listen and imagine. People can be made and unmade through storytelling; ideas, values, beliefs, history can all be found in a story. When storytellers tell stories, they are giving part of themselves to it. There may not always be a direct influence drawn from their lives, but I have found that the connection I form to the stories I tell are reflections of who I am, have been, and could be.”