An hour ago, I started keying a poem directly into this blog. It didn’t work. It can be like that sometimes, with poetry, with prose – you start something, it doesn’t work, you put it to one side. And all the while, it keeps growing and mutating inside you, until, maybe not until years later, it has taken a shape that does work, that can live independently of you. And then you finish it. And release it into the wild to find its own way. I have often meant to go back through all my workbooks and take old poems, unfinished poems, and rework them. There’s even a workbook on the shelves behind me on the cover of which I’ve scribbled The Rewrites. I think I got about two or three pages in before I got distracted by something else.
Perhaps this explains my love of new music, this distraction element in me. I do love a lot of older stuff from the 80s (perhaps it reminds me of being young), but I love finding new sounds and songs that only very few people before me will have heard. Sometimes I think it’s just posturing, but then I fall in love with a new band, a new song – only to forget them within a few weeks because something else has come along that fascinates me. And then I know it’s not posturing; it’s trying to keep my world new, trying to keep my grey matter (or whatever you might call that mysterious thing that is the brain – is it the soul, that intangible and uncatchable essence that sometimes seems like steam and sometimes like steel, because it’s what makes us?) active, to stem the loss of cells that accelerates with age. It’s also got something to do with this tendency in me to want to encourage people to create, and to support those who are neglected by the mainstream but are actually better than the mainstream. I wish more bands would send me their stuff, but then I suppose I’d have even less time.
Talking of mentoring (which that really is), it’s been one of the highlights of my life so far to have people trust me to give them advice on writing, to allow me to encourage them to write when maybe they hadn’t had the impulse or the courage to do so before. I had an email from one such old friend yesterday, and she said “I’m always struck by your underlying deep sadness, and a remoteness and otherness underneath the eloquence.” I’m not sharing this to bow my own trumpet, but rather because it chimes with the point I made yesterday of seeing myself through a different lens when I write these scribbles. The thing is, I’ve never seen myself as particularly remote, until I remember often being called arrogant, distant, too focused on what’s in my head and in my other worlds, of shutting out what’s not important to me and my inner life.
I often think that, deep down, I’m a misanthrope (an irony, that, bearing in mind I didn’t realise until I had therapy that I used to bend over backwards to get people to like me – now I actually believe what I used to say, and say now, which is that none of us should be particularly bothered about what others think of us because they have no right to judge us, just as we have no right to judge others) because I like being on my own, because I like being adrift, because other people often make me angry with their selfishness and ignorance. And the sadness, well, the sadness is the human condition, isn’t it? We’re told happiness is the goal, but it isn’t. Surviving is our goal, making other people’s lives better – even if we just make on person’s life better that makes our life worth living. Alison wrote a whole novel based on one simple writing prompt from me about a lost wallet. She’ll hate me for saying this, but she released A Place For Connie into the wild in 2018, and I loved it.
Tangents, tangents, tangents. Life is made up of straight lines. Even circles are nothing but a pattern of straight lines arranged as tangents to a shape that only becomes visible when all those straight lines have been drawn.
The rain is battering the roof. The city gulls are dive-bombing the trees. It’s another English Grey Friday, and I’m on the radio later, and need to get some work done. I hadn’t planned to spend almost two hours thinking and writing and losing my thread and finding it again. None of us ever do.
And that poem started the gods would not polish the mountain of glass.
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