How I found Alice...by Michaela Morgan
How I found Alice...by Michaela Morgan
I come from long ago from a world of black and white, and grey. Narrow streets and narrow lives. Very little kindness.
I went to the local primary school where we had class libraries. The books were in a folding metal contraption on wheels. They would be wheeled into the room, unlocked, unfolded and the books would be revealed.
You could take out a book but then you returned it at the end of the session, or maybe it was the end of the week, or maybe it was the end of the book. I can’t be expected to remember everything can I?
Opened it was and into my hands came Alice in Wonderland and into the strange world of Alice I tumbled, never to entirely return. Alice’s little golden key let me into a world of adventure and colour and strength and impossible possibilities. I loved her stalwart and stoical confidence as she quietly stood up for herself and continued in her journey. I loved the plays on words, the fun, the nonsense. But most of all I loved the verse in the story. I reread those verses. I still know most of them by heart. By heart.
Life went on and eventually I became a children’s author. I became one who visits schools and attempts to answer questions. I am asked 'Which books do you remember from your childhood? Who was your favourite author?' And the answer came straight to my mouth and out it popped 'The Alice books... the poems of Lewis Carroll.'
I heard myself answer and learnt about myself as I answered. And I realised that the children’s books I write are a combination of prose and verse. And the feelings in them, the incidents in them, the mood in them – has more than often been influenced by my early reading of Alice.
And then in my real world, in my real life, I took an Alice-like tumble. The ground disappeared and down I fell. No need to tell you what happened - but something that shook my world.
And who rescued me?
I found I had lost my focus. I could no longer write in any great length. I found it difficult to read. I ended up reading the same bits over and over again and failing to focus on new and full length fiction.
Poetry was a lifeline.
I could read the brief and the powerful.
Familiar books that I could re-read were a life line.
And so after a terrible lull when I wrote little or nothing. I turned to writing my responses to Alice – in poetry. Importantly, I involved other poets and writers. I reached out to them and they came up with the goods (such goods, such poets, such fortune to have contributions of this quality and originality!)
Thus Wonderland: Alice in Poetry was born.
Many of the generously contributing poets turned up to perform their poems at the launch. It launched the book and it relaunched my friendships. It relaunched me.
Wonderland: Alice in Poetry is a book of responses. Lewis Carroll took existing verses, well known to children of his time and he twisted them, shook them about and presented his own very different versions. We poets in Wonderland took Lewis Carroll’s verses and we followed his model by responding to them in our own ways. We made those verses our own.
In turn, in classrooms, or at home, children may take our poems and those of Lewis Carroll - and the ones that started it all - and these children can join the chain of memories and words and ideas. They can make their own poems using Alice, her stories, the verses and our responses, as inspiration for their own original work.
It is as if Alice is a pass-the-parcel-gift that we can unwrap and enjoy in our own way. Whatever age we are, there is something for us. There is adventure, challenge, humour, craziness, wisdom, wonderful words and thoughts and dreams – and fun.
So together we fall into the world of Alice, together we find the little golden key, we let ourselves in and we’re off in our own sort of Caucus Race. All begin running when and where they like, so it is not easy to know when the race is over but everybody has won, and all will have prizes ... Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?
You can learn more about Alice, read an extract and buy a copy of Wonderland: Alice in Poetry here.