Recently, the filmmaker Anna Tchernakova asked me, for a project she’s working on, to think of three objects from my childhood bedroom that were so essential that if I had them again, I’d be able to re-create the room. We moved many times when I was a child, but the room I think of first is the one that has been in my mind when I’ve been writing the poems in Soul Mouth (Fall 2012).

The house was set in an orchard and we lived there with my grandparents. I shared the bedroom with my brother, and so my personal space was restricted. My three objects were a ukulele, a blackboard (and chalk) I carried everywhere so I could draw, and a white ‘comforter’ covered in tiny roses.  I heaped the comforter over my head whenever I wanted privacy—mostly to tell stories to an imaginary friend or to negotiate encounters with some of the peculiar people who turned up at my grandmother’s house. (One of these was a very old lady, dressed in voluminous black, who carried an ear trumpet: I’ve not seen anyone like her since!)  It hadn’t occurred to me, until I heard ME answer the same question with descriptions of his pets (a canary, a budgie and a white mouse) how clearly the objects represented fundamental traits.

Almost by definition, the books loved in childhood are slow books: we love to hear them over and over; and when we’re grownups may return to them not only to read to our own children, but for reassurance. Poems and stories kept in memory, fairy-tales, and bed time stories are part of this repertoire: I still love to be read to and I know I’m not alone in saying that being read to by my husband was part of how I fell in love.

Books about childhood, or rooted in childhood, can be powerful.  A Slow Book choice in this category would be the Swedish-Finnish author, Tove Jansson’s, The Summer Book. Focused on the relationship between six year old Sophia and her grandmother, the story unfolds over a number of summers spent on a Finnish island. The limits of the landscape and volatility of the weather add to the clarity of a portrayal of the girl and her family following the death of the child’s mother. Images of old age; childhood fears; life and death and the sea; and especially the passionate nature of Sophia make for a book that is both pure and unsentimental. I’ve read it three times. I know that child—I miss her.