In 2016, Lily Ashley sent James Massiah and I an email; the subject line was ‘Hell-p me.’ We were three strangers about to build a virtual connection. We had only one thing to go on - we had to be honest. We wanted to create a safe place in the shaky thread of an email chain where we could reveal all, a place where three very different people with three very different voices could meet and offload through free verse and other poetic forms. In doing so we wanted to explore the limitations and benefits of communicating online. We didn't know what to expect. A year later, we're still emailing each other. We have lulls, times when we don't email each other back and times when we misunderstand each other but that's what living in a digital age is like. The collection Hell-p Me (published by Eyewear) is a collection of our poems from the start of the project in July 2016 to March 2017 in an unedited, email format true to our thread. It is a group diary of three people dealing with the ups and downs that life chucks at us. This extract is from the bleak month of February, following a performance at a London literary night. It intends to give the reader an insight into our three different worlds and the page on which they meet.
- Grace Pilkington
On 3 Feb 2017, at 14:20, Grace Pilkington wrote:
Through my tyred body,
sugar curdled in my throat.
Like a petal on a fluffy cocktail,
I'd like to drift and float,
I'm not that light,
But I do like,
Avenues of faces
The next day I feel deflated,
'God - writing is overrated'
It's like an ache that roams through
I can't not do it.
I could never not do it.
My fingers itch
To eclipse white paper with ink,
But in all this ink and all these words,
There are only a few moments when it doesn't hurt,
When I'm addled with adrenaline and fixed on my face is a sick grin,
Only a few moments when it feels completely right,
And one of them was performing with you two last night.
From: Lily Ashley Sent: 07 February 2017 19:38 Subject: Re: Hell-p me
wasn't it great!wasn't it... ..I'm fine …i'm fine …i lied the come down came quicker hit across the pitter patter screen leaned around and over the steering wheel curled around where i could feel the loneliness and suck it up and out my tears became a shout the world tilted ajar hobbled past my shuddering car and looked back and in what pray within
paranoid and alone i look to empty home strangers walk towards the door i knew it, they've come back for more they weren't happy with what they stole they're coming back to catch my soul
my sweaty palm vibrates my phone why am i always alone? alone alone in see through dress with darting eyes, a batty mess and through my fear leaps out a sound so unhinged they turn around
oh what to do i'm in no state… …i realise its my house mate and her boyfriend, there was a change of plan they’re staying this side of town my shoulders drop my arms fly wide i spring to them with bouncing stride and in the kitchen they give advice on i can't remember but it was nice and I'm so happy to be with friends i forget i forget i forget it ends
On 8 Feb 2017, at 12:04, James Massiah wrote:
And end it did
another night alone My love If only it weren't so
Things must be the way they be
And if they change that's how they be
Edie saw me
my lady friend wants more
but i'm not qualified to give
Afraid that she will live alone frustrated i won't lay but we all know what they say
too many lights in the bush spoil the broth of birds when a stitch in time could save nine lives because it's bad luck when the mirror breaks seven times under a ladder on the day of the dead if it's the 13th when love is the root of all evil money is the answer to be or not to bother me because it's tough at the bottom of the topsy turvy world that makes it go round Or some words to that effect Whatever it was I can't wait to see you next