Poems Spring from Snapshots of Youth; IN Her Poetry Collection Background Music, Cynthia Fuller Harmoniously Orchestrates Personal Histories, Relationships and Landscapes, as TAMZIN LEWIS Writes

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Byline: TAMZIN LEWIS

POET Cynthia Fuller describes herself as "spying" on her parents in her latest collection of poetry. It's quite a harmless sort of spying as it involves looking at old black and white photos taken of her mum and dad in the years before she was born.

Cynthia hardly recognises Harry and Dorothy pictured in their youth in the 1930s and in the poem Telling Fortunes writes: "no lines yet, all their teeth and hair, and happy, in droopy woollen swimsuits at Whitley Bay."

This poem falls into the first sequence within Background Music, which was inspired by a CD of family images sent to Cynthia by a cousin in the United States.

The photos gave Cynthia new insight into her mum and dad's relationship as young lovers rather than careworn parents.

Looking at the photos with their handwritten captions made her feel a bit sneaky, as if doing something behind their backs.

She explains: "The photos showed me their relationship and their attachment to one another, something that I don't think I ever saw as a child.

"I could see their carefreeness and sense of fun. There was also an obvious fondness for each other and affection shown in these photos."

She adds: "Thinking of your family in the 1930s is also interesting, wondering if they were talking about what was happening in Europe, if they read the papers and had a sense of what might come."

Background Music, Cynthia's fifth poetry book, has a deep sense of history and story, in continuation from her last collection Jack's Letters Home. This was inspired by the discovery of letters from her uncle John Jeans who died aged 19 during the First World War.

Cynthia, who has two children and four grandchildren, says: "Jack's Letters Home made me interested in my grandmothers, who both died before I was born.

"As I have moved on to a new stage in life as a grandmother myself, I have been thinking more about them and who they were.

"I have also found that there is something lovely about looking after young children again, and it does open up new feelings."

In the poem My Grandmother Waiting she writes: "When all the stories faded, their words washed away leaving, only blank pages - it was the day her life ended."

The poem relates to her gran Charlotte who closed herself off following Jack's death and died from grief four years later in 1922 despite having another son, Harry. She says: "This collection has a lot of stories and also history, whether personal or about fictional characters.

It's about connections between people and places."

One such place is Hill Crest on Kent's Isle of Sheppey, her mum's childhood home to which she returned with her own family. …

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