Ruby Dine has a hunger for learning new words, which has led to the 21 year old exhibiting a collection of her poetry – alongside collages and paintings – at Jubilee library this month. I meet Ruby and her creative partner, Rachel Norwood, in Rachel’s Brighton home, where I peruse a hardback book titled Volume One, Poems by Ruby Dine. Ruby’s poems often centre around emotional responses to her life: Family, for example, explores how she loves the people in her household, ‘my tribe’. ‘Jenny is the leader of my family / She has the Frida Kahlo power’.
Ruby had initially spent her time with Rachel studying Spanish, but changed paths because she “loves poetry, and loves hearing words”. Rachel explains how she assists Ruby with her writing: “One day for example, Ruby was writing a poem about how hot she was. We looked up a big list of synonyms on the iPad, and she chose which ones she liked.”
Ruby is a prolific writer, but many of her poems might never be released to the public. She explains that this is because “some of my poems are really personal” and that she sometimes doesn’t “talk about personal feelings much” in public. Ruby is keen to share some of her thoughts on music, and gardens, however. Music explores Ruby’s reaction to Erik Satie (which makes her ‘feel sad and blue’) and Motorhead (‘head splitting!’ and ‘thunderous!’). One of Ruby’s favourite ever lines is in Sussex Prairie Gardens: ‘I heard the sprinkler / It sounded like beat boxing’.
Ralph, a poem about Ruby’s rescue dog (pictured with Ruby), is filled with evocative descriptions: ‘Ralph is pencil thin / Hollow cheeked / Like a match stick’. When real words and synonyms don’t suffice, Ruby is happy to make up words, exclaiming that Ralph is ‘puckeracious!’. I like how frank and full-hearted Ruby’s poetry is: one of my favourite stanzas is ‘I… %*$!!! hate advice / I don’t really know why / I think maybe I’m allergic’. Why don’t you like advice, I ask? “It’s just not my thing.”
Ruby has Downs Syndrome, and finds that her poetry can be useful in “helping my family and friends listen to what I’m saying”. During the interview, Ruby singles out her poem Furious, which ends with a passionate refusal to be defined by the condition. ‘I don’t want to be Downs Syndrome / That’s not who I am // I am a singer / I am a dancer / I am a poet / I am a mermaid / I am a really good friend / I am an auntie // I am a divine woman’.
Jubilee library, 3rd to 15th Feb