‘Negative capability – when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’ Letter of John Keats
It’s such an odd thing when things begin to cluster together – you remember or read something and then the same day the name or subject re-occurs several times.
Books fall into my hands these days – not in bookshops but on my book shelves. I realised the other day that it is only in the last two years that my books
have been back together in one place. I have a habit of losing them. They don’t fit into the luggage space – the box of books I left long ago in Heligan, along with the baby’s cradle and all the pots and pans. They get ruined in one way or another – my books left in England then those taken to Sri Lanka that were eaten by termites and stored boxes soaked by leaks in the garage roof. Others dotted around the world – Kenya, Vietnam, China, Pakistan that I intended to go back and fetch but never made it.
So this morning, I am sitting in my lovely room, all the books on shelves, some of the shelves that belonged to Elizabeth Bewick and are therefore endowed with special ‘poet’ essence. There is no easy source of poetry books here in rural outposts of Normandie other than through the post. I am not happy with Amazon at the moment on account of their taxes, although they have replaced for free my damaged Kindle which has pleased and amazed me. So I am beginning to re-read some of the hundreds of books I already own. In this way old favourites and un-read, yet to be discovered books are giving me a lot of pleasure.
Yesterday and today I have been re-reading ‘Negotiating with the Dead’, written versions of the Empson lectures that Margaret Attwood gave at Cambridge in 2000. They mirror to such an extent the concerns that I have been raising in my journals . Who do we write for? Who is the reader of our writing? Where lies truth, veracity, authenticity? This is a draft version of a poem that is edging its way I guess towards trying to work out some of these truths.
Being a writer
I create the world in my head.
Now I live with someone who says
Wake up and smell the coffee.
I watch pink light
coming up over the orchard
while my coffee cools
and the morning comes in the window
insistent of pollen
and spice smells
Is not a work of fiction.
And this is a bit from my journal recently which is trying to grapple with the same problem. ‘Why am I writing? What drives me to it? What am I hoping to do? Is it to anchor random thoughts, to purify, locate and tether feelings and emotions? To make a mark – the original, distinguished (not compromised or mistaken for another) mark? – the mot juste, word in its right/write place? To mark, tether, join , anchor what it is I want to say and how I want to say it so that it can be read by others? How important is that? Is it recognition, a sense of ‘right fit’? Partly I guess I want to craft – make smooth, make it fit, – partly I want to reach clear water – not to be buffeted and caught in the whirlpool, the rip tide – out of control and sucked away. The free fall, the ice melt, the sheer swumf and swell of ice melting and the blue blocks churning, rocks breaking to brown mud. The heart free – up like a bird in air, washed clean by light – purified – so the eye can see clearly – the heart respond, cleave through with strength – arrive (not safe but sound).
It’s a bit strange to be writing something unedited straight from my journal but useful to me I think. I see the images – sea, ice melt, the mountains that are my kind of iconic images that re-occur in so many places. My recent poems have been about the Himalayas so the images are rattling around my head. I have been using my journals, or intend to use them, as source books for my writing. I am trying to put in some images into my blog – I think it helps to break up the text and I also think in image as well as words. Just hope the technology works.