Charlotte Lunn went to her first poetry reading when she was ten. There were community days at her local church every Saturday, and one weekend they invited a poet. He’d written a book of children’s school poems and, as he read, Charlotte became enthralled. He signed her book and she took it home. She told her Dad: ‘I want to be a poet.’
And now she is. She’s written her own book of poetry, Metamorphosis. She’s signed copies of it. But it’s not been an easy ride. The poems inside Metamorphosis deal with Charlotte’s personal experiences of trauma, abuse, mental health difficulties, and her path to recovery.
‘Writing and rereading some of the poems was painful,’ Charlotte tells me over Zoom. ‘Other times it was cathartic. At times, I even felt removed from them. It’s a different experience every time. I do think it’s helpful though. I’m a spoken-word performer as well so having that kind of emotional connection with a poem really helps me tap into that place. I think that makes performances more authentic – it’s really important.’
Though not able to appear at live events for the past year, Charlotte still managed to find ways to perform her poetry, running workshops and readings online.
‘Teaching people really feeds my soul,’ she says. ‘I love it so much and I hope I get to do it for the rest of my life. Connecting with other people that want to learn more about poetry and being able to help people develop their writing is such a beautiful thing.’
Charlotte is chatty and cheerful; with her long, pink hair and huge blue eyes she seems to shimmer on the other end of the Zoom call like the Good Fairy of poetry. But the content of the book is hefty and serious. Among other things, Metamorphosis deals with emotional abuse and the stigma around periods and cervical smears. Online, Charlotte has also charted her experiences with chronic illness and her recent diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Her next project, as-yet unentitled (or even officially announced – we’re getting a Nothing in the Rulebook exclusive here), is set to encompass poems inspired by the stories of people living with chronic illness. So it’s no wonder that a writer like Sylvia Plath affected Charlotte so deeply.
‘I’ve devoured everything she’s ever written,’ she says. ‘I think she’s the queen of poetry.’
But baring your soul, even through the distorted lens of poetry, must be an intimidating prospect. Think of Sylvia Plath and, while her writing talent is certainly one of the first things that comes to mind, it’s swiftly followed by darkness, depression, and a terrible, tragic death. So while writing may be cathartic, performing may be liberating, preparing for readers and reviews must be tough.
‘I am quite nervous about people reading it,’ Charlotte says. ‘But I’m also excited at the same time. I’m just hoping that it resonates with people that have experienced abuse and trauma, people that are having mental health struggles, and that it helps them feel less alone. I almost want to give them a friend, as a book.’
The book that was Charlotte’s friend, the book that got her through some of the hardest times in her life? Twilight.
‘Those books got me through some really dark times,’ she says, laughing. ‘They cheered me up so much.’
There is something magic about the Twilight saga, about the way that Stephanie Meyer writes about a supernatural world in a dreary, rain-streaked town. In a chapter about werewolves and drinking blood, someone will also put the washing on. In a scene in which someone describes the hierarchy of the vampire overlords, someone will also eat a bowl of cereal. It’s the extraordinary balance, of the otherworldly and worldly, of the ridiculous and mundane, that makes it all believable. You might not know what it’s like to be stalked by a bloodthirsty creature of the night, but you do know the sound of Cheerios tinkling into a bowl, of the rain on asphalt. And then you’re halfway there. Then you care.
And isn’t all of this, the world we construct around us, a balancing act? Charlotte Lunn is a poet and performer, but she’s also a bookseller and tutor. She has a chronic illness but runs workshops, she was hurt but wants to help others heal. Now, she moves in light, but has dug through darkness. And every day demands digging. But when in one – the light or deep darkness – it can be hard to remember the other, even if it was only a year, a month, a minute ago. And sometimes the light is just a minute, a Zoom call, a poem away.
‘I wrote Metamorphosis over a very long period of time,’ Charlotte says. ‘Originally, it was just lots of individual poems, but then I went on a course with Jane Commane, the founder of Nine Arches Press. She did a ‘putting your book together for publication’ workshop and it was in that session that I finally figured out what my arc was. I realised that all the individual poems I’d been writing told my story. I went home, put it all together and it started to become a real thing.’
So you have to wait for your arc. In the middle of something, you can’t see clearly. But poetry hammers things into shape, gives pain a punchline. You just have to stick around to see it in print.
To find out more about Charlotte and her poetry, you can follow her on Twitter (@CharlotteLPoet) and Instagram (@charlottelunnpoet). You can buy a copy of Metamorphosis from Verve Poetry Press.
You can also buy tickets for the book’s official launch on the 28th May here.
Credit for the featured image and headshot goes to Laura Foulds Moody.
About the Author
For ten years, Ellen Lavelle has interviewed authors for The Young Journalist Academy, Nothing in the Rulebook, Newark Book Festival, and her own blog. She’s written for several publications, including The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award Blog. Now an editor at Nothing in the Rulebook, she writes fiction and non fiction, while working as a digital copywriter for an education company. You can follow her on Twitter @ellenrlavelle