Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter

Life, Writing

Women, men, writers, bodies, and metamorphosis

Dear Ren,

I don’t even know where to start. When I worked as a teacher in Germany in in 1980/81, Anna (Oscar’s godmother) and I wrote each other letters that were well over 20 pages long. And there is so much in your last letter that I could easily write you 20 pages in response.

You wouldn’t want to be in my head – seriously. It is a place of total and utter chaos, but no-one on the outside ever thinks that, because, for some odd reason, everyone seems to think that I am one of the most organised people they know. What I do always say to people is that if we get all our routine tasks out of the way quickly, we’ll have more time to be free, to do what we really want, and enjoy ourselves.

As far as listening to music when writing goes, I think I need an atmosphere around me, a sense of moving space. I also quite like mishearing words and creating something from that wrong word that then sends me off in a totally different direction. It’s almost symbiotic, the way music and my words live together. And it has to be loud music a lot of the time. Having said that, I do like silence, and I do sometimes write poetry in silence. Because, for me, poetry punctuates the quiet, and poetry is quiet, a lot of the time.

You’re right about how possibly childbirth makes it easier for women to accept the physical changes mid-life brings with it. For us men, it is a shock because we’ve never really been through metamorphosis before. Certain angles of certain things change, too, and that affects our sense of being men, too. Erectile tissue weakens – now that’s a title for a novel if there ever was one.

I hate how men/media/even women talk about vaginas in a derogatory way. A vagina is one of the most beautiful things on the planet, and I have been horrified, when talking with M, or past girlfriends, how previous lovers have talked about it in the most horrible way, and how this has affected their self-esteem, their attitudes towards the body, everything. It’s damage that’s not easy to repair. What have those women been made to miss?

I must obviously go and find a copy of Being Dead, although I have to admit that I am painfully reluctant to think about death, especially my own. I guess it’s because it frightens me, however inevitable it is. I still long for that sense of immortality we had when we were young.

As for the freedom that age brings – I think you’re one step ahead of me because you have an empty nest. I don’t yet (nor am I necessarily looking forward to having one), but I can see how it would allow me to refocus my responsibilities on me rather than trying to feed so many mouths – spiritually and physically.

What you say about posting poetry on your blog is really very interesting. I’d have thought that a published poet would no longer care what the world says or how it reacts, would be unshakeably confident in her words. Having said that, I honestly believe that writers who worry about what they write, who think what they write may not be good enough, are actually the best writers, the greatest writers. I remember you signing your first book for me in that 45 minutes we had at Oslo station in November 2004, the very first time we met, and, having retrieved it from my shelf now, find that even then you had that concern about your words being good enough – ‘probably published before it was ready’ you wrote in it for me. We’re strange creatures, writers, always on that edge between success and failure – in our heads. I’m not sure we always register what the world says about us. I must admit I’ve given up caring about what people say about my writing, but frustrated when no-one is saying anything. Maybe I do have the constant need to be the centre of attention, despite being chronically shy (something M will confirm to anyone who doesn’t believe me). The public performer is a type of mask for me – and I love it. I have always told you I’m a media whore.

You deserve the attention your forfatterskap gets – I think/know you’re a great writer. You have taught me many things about writing. Not just that, but it’s down to you that Bee Bones was written, because it was you, towards the end of October 2005, who emailed me and told me about NaNoWriMo, and so I started writing on 1st November 2005, to a title I’d thought up years before, and 76,000 words poured out of me in 23 days to make the book that’s still the most special to me, however imperfect it occasionally seems to me. 11 years ago! See what a significant part of my life you are.

To come full circle to the beginning of your letter, I do not allow myself to even think about Christmas before 1st Advent, which often but not always coincides with M’s birthday. I miss Norwegian Christmases, though we do celebrate the Norwegian (and German) way. I need to get some scent candles into my office (separate from the house) to fill me with energy in the mornings, but I still haven’t found the lemon scent I want.

Enjoy your dark mornings and evenings. I have to admit I find them more difficult to deal with in England than I ever did in Norway. It’s the dampness over here, I think, and the lack of clearly-defined seasons. And the minimal hope for snow.

Give our love to E. You’re always welcome to come and see us over here. I’m not sure we’ll ever travel as a family of 6 again now that 2 of the children are over 20. Although they did all come to Spain with us to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Now that was something! I hope we’ll be able to celebrate yours and E’s 25th. I’ll only be 81!


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