Kate Bush is not just a singer-songwriter. She is first and foremost a creator. Like Bowie who passed away recently, as well as an incredibly distinctive voice, it is her other talents – dancing, performing, composing – that combine to be far bigger than the whole.
The rhythms of creativity run through to her marrow – Bush’s mother was an Irish dancer, her father a pianist, one of her brothers a poet and photographer and the other a maker of musical instruments. Like Bowie we know her work instantly: like Bowie, she is one of a kind, a strange person. Because my own nature is bound up with the idea of the outsider, I have always been drawn to strange people and to strangeness. Etymologically speaking, the word ‘strange’ originates from ‘foreign’ and ‘outside of’ and her art certainly feels like that – outside of reality, outside of pop and classical, outside of everything that had gone before.
She has always seemed to me to be wild and elegant, connected with nature, with her imaginative and physical body and free to make her own choices, creative and otherwise. I do not believe any of those qualities are contradictory.
And yet, incredibly, Bush is not vilified but celebrated for her strangeness, at least in the 21st Century. Matildia on Femme Ephemera wittily argues that Bush lives in an alternative universe where she is free from stereotypes of femininity, one where patriarchy doesn’t feature:
We see this tiny glimpse of what the world could be like if female artists got to do their art while being seen as people and not constantly held to ridiculous standards, trivialized and ridiculed and then shamed for being either too sexy or not sexy enough all the time.
More than one person in the past has said I reminded them of Kate Bush and that has made me happy. In many ways we are nothing alike – I’m certainly not as talented as she is and I definitely don’t have the same aversion to the word ‘feminist’ she espoused in the 80s. I’ve never wanted to be anyone other than a more self-actualising version of myself (no apologies if that sounds a bit naff). But I do aspire to that intense connection, that sense of liberty in my work and in my life.
But Bush also knows when to step back, when to prioritise other things. I have learned that although writing and performance make up a significant part of my identity, I have other roles too, including those of mother, workshop leader and partner. Sometimes those roles have to take priority. Bush did a brave thing when she exited the music business for a decade to bring up her child – she was still making music, just at a different pace. She couldn’t have known that her fans would wait for her all that time, that after 35 years of not touring tickets would be sold out within minutes but she took the risk because her creative impulse pulled her towards motherhood.
In ‘Ultrasonics’ I write about the desire to have time apart or outside of the rest of the world to create.
If only everything else
would fall away
and we could watch, for hours,
the water that refracts
on the lake.
We’d play at making love from chaos
till it’s time to go back…
(Becky Cherriman, ‘Ultrasonics’, Echolocation)
Bush showed that deliberately estranging ourselves, taking time out or slowing down when we have different sorts of work to do does not make us less valid. If anything it might make us more appreciated.
The Magic of Kate Bush and the World Outside Patriarchy
Echolocation is available for pre-order until 24th February 2016 at the reduced price of £4.50 at Mother’s Milk Books or you may wish to purchase it at one of the launch events below.
Nottingham Launch of poetry pamphlet, Echolocation
Date: 24th February
Time: 7- 8.30 pm
Venue: Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham
Leeds Launch of poetry pamphlet Echolocation with Michael Brown, author of Undersong
Date: Sunday 28th February
Time: 2-3 pm
Venue: Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds
A Firm of Poets have been given a residency at The Hepworth Wakefield to celebrate the photography of Martin Parr. They have lots of exciting things planned. I will be running a drop in workshop for them on the evening of Thursday 18th February. Do drop me a line if you think you can come along. Find details at The Hepworth Wakefield