Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter

Life, Politics, Writing

Religion, politics, and a space to breathe

Dear Ren,

23rd November 2016, 20:29

Just a quick start to this. Thanks for your letter which arrived as I’m struggling with the middle section of Ice Child – the weather, a tooth extraction, and general exhaustion, I think. Still no shrugging, though.

I was going to say how odd it is that I always start letters (and emails) with the end of the letter I’m writing back to, and now I’ve written seven lines already without saying what I was going to start with, which is that I don’t actually know when your birthday is. Sorry. Barolo, what a wonderful name for a wine – the word rolls round your mouth just like that rich red flavour. I must go back to drinking more red again. I always prescribe it for friends when they have colds.

My desk is stacked high with research for the novel, with a print-out of your letter, Mixed States (because I had to go and read On Not Repeating Myself), day job notebooks and papers (hidden on the photos because they have to be secret), two PCs and keyboards and mice (and my new writing CD on the stereo behind me because the one I’d been using so far seems to have lost its effect).
One last thing tonight, before I go back to Ice Child – your letters are like your poems. They go out and gather all these thoughts and facts and emotions, and pull them all together, and get to an ending that, like I said to you yesterday, haunts. And that is the right word, not because of your recurring ghosts, but because it’s the best word I can find to say those endings stay with me, become engrained. Maybe that is what ghosts are – some part of some soul, of some nature, that is so intense it stays with you forever. There. I think it must be true.
to be continued in the morning
24th November 2016, 12:15
Life is fragmented. I got up at 6:30 and thought I’d get some writing (inc this letter) done, but what with exchanging about 12 words with M before she left at 6:55 and then dealing with some work emails until I woke A at 7:30, and then talking with her over breakfast (and seeing K out of the door at 8:08), and then seeing her out of the door at 8:40, time in the mornings seems to disintegrate and hours pass. And yet I don’t regret this, because soon they’ll all be living somewhere else and I’ll not be able to be nice or curmudgeonly with them in the mornings. Actually, I took A to have a look at a high school where she might do her A-levels from Sept yesterday, and when we got home, A, K, and I had a nice talkie lunch together. I’m so lucky to work from home. M was quite upset she’d not been there for that lunch. I like, I love those spontaneous moments with my family.
Back to your letter – I’ve not picked up Cursed Child  since last week. Much of my time is going into making sure my voice is heard somewhere about the appalling political situations the UK and the US have got themselves into. I did write an open letter on my blog to the Electoral College, but that will have been ignored along with all our pleas for unity and sanity and tolerance. On Sunday, though, my show on the radio will be two hours of political songs, and I don’t care who complains, and I certainly won’t be impartial, because that’s not how I do things.
By the way, I’m very glad for you that E and I don’t have looks in common. He’s a tall, handsome, striking man, and I couldn’t be further from that. Good job M likes me short, dumpy and very distracted most of the time. When I’ve read Cursed Child, I’ll see what happens about the rules of magic. Mind you, isn’t the magic thing about magic that there can never be any rules?
See, you are more clever than me – I don’t even know what a Hegelian spiral is. Though that brings me to the communalities between the mentally disordered and creative people – I often think they are one and the same. O often asks me why I don’t got to the doctor about my depression. Answer is that I think it’s mild, nothing compared to those who really suffer, and that I use it to fuel my writing. I often feel that I write my best when I’m at my unhappiest. Perhaps I’m a fool, not a poet. Also, I’m not sure I have the courage to reveal myself, to confront myself in conversation with my doctor, as with a shrink. Although I have to admit my last appointment with my acupuncturist (whom I’m going to see later) reduced me to tears because she does make me confront myself with truths I am too often not prepared to accept. But the last thing I want to do is to have the energy and the words cured away. Because, truthfully, that would be death.

 Politics, all the time. Even writing this, about me, I have this going on at the back of my mind. I know we all have very dark, evil places in our souls – that’s what writing is about, dealing with those things. We’re all greedy, we’re all capable of doing appalling things – but we don’t, because we learn to tell the difference between right and wrong, because we know the value of love, friendship, freedom, and peace. To be honest (I use that phrase too much), self-loathing is better than loathing those who are different from us to the extreme of wanting to destroy them. Because that’s where those on the right (and I don’t just mean the extreme right) are, and where they’ve always been – they want to eradicate anything and anyone that’s different to them. And even if they stop short of eradication, they want to subjugate. All right-wing politicians are nothing but ethnic cleansers. And those who are on the Evangelical Right – they’re not Christians. How can you claim to be of any faith if you approve of war, violence, misogyny and other countless crimes against humanity? It’s madness of a particularly malicious kind.
You know, there’s nothing wrong with fanning the flames of knowledge, understanding, and resistance to the above.
Ufarliggjøring – to make less dangerous, to defuse; all these definitions have two sides. Do you make something less dangerous in the sense of making it appear harmless (which actually makes it more dangerous), or by removing from it the potential to be dangerous (which really does disarm it)? Are normalisers just teaching the world to accept the bomb, or are they taking the firing mechanism out of the bomb? I think it’s the first, and I don’t want the world to be like that. Fascists are fascists are fascists, and no amount of spin can change that. And they’re evil. Enough!
What I’ve always loved about the Potter series is that it’s built on this idea of there always being a safe place, that there will always be someone who loves you. The idea that good will ultimately overcome evil is one we all like, isn’t it? That’s why the books have been so successful. I have read them all at least 4 times, although I have never gone to huge lengths to analyse them beyond what I’ve just said. I know Rowling always says Dumbledore was homosexual. I can’t say that I ever had the sense that Greyback was an analogy for homosexuality, though. Being a boy at heart, I probably just focused on the adventure and the battles. And then the question is – are there really that many layers under what novelists write? Should we even take the liberty to assume there are, and to look for things that might not even be there? I know some people have given Dead Men interpretations that never crossed my mind when I was writing it, nor when I’d finished it. In the end, I think all writing is about the quest for redemption, even if that quest is not always completed. I don’t know if that makes me a believer in the original sin – something I think I’m not.
I love this conclusion of yours – “… men … battle nature from without their bodies, women from within.” I think this is so true, and manifested in so many different ways. How women think (though that will always be a mystery to me), how they read, how they intuit, how they interact. But then maybe that’s why we still live in such an overwhelmingly patriarchal society – because women have always had to fight those internalised battles, have always had to fight with themselves, while men have always just fought with each other and thereby conquered the planet. Or perhaps that’s me now ascribing too many layers to life, when, essentially, life should be straightforward and simple. (But it’s not, he thinks).
Full circle to On Not Repeating Myself. On reading it again, I find it frighteningly prescient about this correspondence, and so accurate about how life moves on, from then to now, to the things we don’t even know about yet. Poetry, you see, I think, has infinitely more levels and layers than novels (all novelists will now come to lynch me.) Brevity = more possible tangents of thought; length = more linear and less room to drift, counter-intuitively. Though, having said all that, Ice Child at the moment is transmogrifying into a jangled portrait of a disturbed mind, a mind disturbed by circumstance and ambition rather than by chemical imbalances. Maybe it’s the change in writing music that’s done that – it hasn’t, not really; there was always the chance of this metamorphosis. My biggest problem is that I often turn into my characters, rather than them coming from me in the first place.
There’ll be traces on this paper of tobacco, seeing as I roll my cigarettes here on the desk, and possibly some traces of smoke because I very occasionally smoke in here – not while writing these letters though.
I fell asleep so deeply and rapidly in my acupuncture session today that K made me jump when she started wafting her moxa stick over my bare back. Oh, that heat is so wonderfully nourishing, and the scent a wonder, too. We used moxa in a futile attempt to move the still-in-womb C from a breach position. She did move around a lot, but didn’t turn. I think she wanted to be a footling birth, different from her siblings. Oh my, how our children shape our lives.
And that brings me from beginning to end, old age and food and religion. Yes, we should just focus on knowing ourselves better, our nature, and our part of nature. That’s the problem with those fascists – they don’t even understand what nature is, what natural is. And religion as “just a recognition that becomes impossible not to see as one ages,” that’s not such a far-fetched idea, you know. And I don’t just mean Christianity; I mean any faith. My father bought me a copy of the Qur’an for my confirmation – but I’m sure you knew that already. I am sure of one thing – my faith has never removed from me the fear of death, although it leads me to question that fear.
I told K that I think all my back troubles (and all the other malfunctions of this body I inhabit) come from my fear of the world. She promptly put a needle in my kidney point (also where fear is centred) and I nearly went flying off the treatment table. Maybe it’s released me, through that pain, from some of my fear.
So here I am, unable as always to draw all these thoughts into a haunting conclusion. All I can say and mean is that this thinking out loud is helping all my other writing, and giving me a space to breathe in this rushing and dangerous time. For that I thank you.
Klem and love to you, and all yours,

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