I thought I’d dig out some of my old notebooks and transfer the scribblings and attempts at poetry onto my lovely new machine. So, the wicker chest my parents gave me for my 21st, which has since been carted from every terrible rented flat and house, is opened, and immediately the smell of damp, rotting paper suggests I can’t do the transferring soon enough. I can’t bear to throw them all away, but the myriad notebooks and diaries (all of them incomplete) are beginning to lose their magic and become dishevelled, yellowed, decaying.
At some point, as a teenager, I decided to record all my poetry in one little notebook, a pretty little tome, covered in chinese silk. It is here that all the beliefs I might be holding (that my best writing years are behind me) are destroyed. If it weren’t bad enough that the majority of my work is bemoaning the loss of affections from a boy whose name I can barely remember [that’s a lie, he’s a friend of mine on facebook], the rest has clearly been written with a significant amount of help from a thesaurus. The callous sand? The lavish wind? The brooding sea, that suckles like a baby at your breast?
It was about this time (Spring 1995) that, along with a long unrequited crush on aforementioned boy, I was reading a great deal of Thomas Hardy. The Brontes, also, figured high on my reading list. And that must be where this twee little thing came from:
The Murderer to Her Childhood Love
I love you. You love me,
but we can never love each other.
Yet I know the pain you feel,
when you see me with another,
because i have felt it too.
But do not fret my darling, do not cry
for we will be together when we die. (April 1995)
Others, some written during my holiday in Italy (holidaying with friends in Italy as a teenage girl – and what do i write? Utter drivel) are even more cringe-worthy. And yet. Did I not decide here, to just write and not judge? To not edit, reread, delete? So. A new angle:
Teenage me was a real cutie. I want to reach back in time and give her a gigantic hug and tell her to pull herself together and love herself more. Which is the advice I’d give any of my students today.
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt” Sylvia Plath
They say the best way to become a writer is to write. I have spent a great many years being too scared to write anything in case it wasn’t good enough. Terrified to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, in case the results proved to me that I wasn’t – as I hoped – the next Nin, Lawrence, Kafka… but, in fact, a writer not even worthy of those godawful chick lit books that seem to be everywhere these days.
And so, I intend to write. Here. Anything. Without editing, without obsessing, without deleting whole pages because it just doesn’t ‘feel right’. And if I am happy with it, I will smile. And if not, I’ll just move on, and write until I am happy. Because at least, that way, I will be writing.
We’ve lived in this house for nearly two years. We’ve never painted it, so we struggle everyday with the awful cream (Magnolia? Really?) that the previous tenants loved so much they used it in every single room. Over the years, P and I have accumulated a number of pictures and frames, promising ourselves one day we’d have the perfect ones, and then we could put them up on the wall.
Today, we admitted the truth and just decided to put up the ones we had, and to hell with perfection! And, really, I think it turned out good.
We’ve got four others to come back from the framers next weekend, but for now, at least they detract from the awful walls…
Also, if you look carefully, while wandering down our corridor, you might spot our little pet, Neruda, who travelled back with us from Mexico, and can now be found lurking menacingly – ready to pounce on intruders!
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
It’s not one of mine. I couldn’t even start to decide which of my small attempts at verse was worthy of being first. So I thought I’d start with this one, by Mary Oliver, instead. This is a poem I came across recently that really spoke to me. Okay, so it’s not the most technically-proficient, and it gets a bad press here: http://articles.poetryx.com/27/. But I really love the idea of not getting hung up on being good. Hell, I’ve just spent six months and over a grand working that out in counselling! Just let your body do what makes it happy. You do not need to repent. The world is huge, you’re tiny… no one really cares what you do, it’s unlikely to be that important anyway.
It’s a great lesson to learn about writing too, and one which has lead me here. You don’t have to write works of art to be a writer… but you do have to write!!