Hey guys I’m back. I’d been reading the letters of Iris Murdoch and getting stoked. For one she studied in Oxford. It’s a place I would have asked God to send me to. Why didn’t you, God? Yea I get such vicarious pleasure out of reading. It’s one step away from having the life you had wanted. Alright, many steps, I fibbed. I was just reading the part where she said: “Writing is the only activity which makes me feel ‘Only I could produce this.’ Whether or not ‘this’ is any use is of course the crucial question to which I know not, and may not ever know, the answer.” So do I have silent readers? No doubt reading and writing gives one such pleasure. A deep sort of pleasure. Depends of course what you read. Haha. It’s so satisfying that there’s no word for it…at least in English that I know of. It’s like being in the company of …Iris Murdoch, or whoever you’re reading. So for today write as if you’re in the company of someone.
I just listened to someone say to show up for work, that’s what we writers do. Everyday or every other day. William Stafford used to wake up at 4AM everyday to write. And not everything you write is fodder for eternity, and that’s ok. It’s expression that matters. Why does it matter? Because it keeps you grounded somehow. Real. Less fake. Because in the real world we keep up appearances. In writing, in fiction, we show our true faces. Isn’t that ironic? Like someone said today, Irene takes the best videos, but god, that sounded ironical, like so artificial. So in writing, ask yourself, is it the real thing? Or are you saying something trite? So today, it’s just me showing up for work. You try doing that and see if anything happens, ok?
Sometimes I feel that I’m just a steward. You are too. What are you given stewardship of? Would that be duties that you carry out? Each in our world do we carry on performing acts of stewardship. This too, this writing stuff. I don’t even know why I do it. Does it even matter? But because it happens so naturally for me, I feel I’m just going with the flow. Then the wind changes direction, as it must, and the flow goes elsewhere. I’ll have to go then. One more month. So for today, think about the question of stewardship.
We’d launch our current issue earlier this year in March. So it’s coming to five months now. In case you’d forgotten, the theme is “Sweet Sorrow”. So yea. You’ve got about a month left to submit, till the closure on 25 August. It’d be our final thematic issue. In case you didn’t know, there’s a sister site which provides prompts. It’s called Red Wolf Poems. (You’re right here.) I really like the synergy that comes from process and journalling; I’ll probably continue with that even if at a glacial pace. So if you wrote to the prompts at this site, then your poem might cross over to the journal. I’d like to keep the focus on process. So when it’s over, it’s not really over. Haha. What’s the saying? It ain’t over till the fat lady sings. I mean, if you can still remember how sweet it was, it’s not really over is it? Could it be even sweeter in the recollection? Because it’d have percolated through the fog of those years? Wow this really gets me in a mood.
As a literature major I’d read a novel and go, ah, there’s the metaphor of breaking in and getting out. Indeed the protagonist, it occurred to me, keeps doing that and it’s like I imagine the novelist, in this case Iris Murdoch, is staging it as a central trope. The trope of imprisonment. At the beginning he is being thrown out of an apartment (read, “forced to vacate”). Then he is being literally imprisoned in another apartment he agreed to house-sit. Later he tries to enter the apartment and ends up at the fire escape eavesdropping before making a dramatic getaway when the neighbors called the police. He tries and succeeds in entering the apartment of a man whom he says this novel is about. He also tries and succeeds in gaining entry to the man’s film set. And later had to escape it dramatically. Towards the end he tries and succeeds in gaining entry to a hospital at night, and succeeds in getting away with that man in tow. There is also a dream-like quality because he seems to summon up whoever he wishes to meet, or appears at a pub at the exact time a telegram is being delivered to him. I mean, coincidences. The object of his pursuit, a lady called Anna, is really in love in with the man he says the novel is about. That’s the final denouement. So you know, the theme of the novel is the illusions that we have, that imprison us. Think about it. All the great novels (and lesser known ones) have this theme. Great Expectations. Pride and Prejudice. The Catcher In The Rye. You name it. At the end the hero/heroine matures. When this happens the world feels unreal.
Here’s a quote from the novel I was talking about, Under The Net.
“All work and all love, the search for wealth and fame, the search for truth, life itself, are made up of moments which pass and become nothing. Yet through this shaft of nothings we drive onward with that miraculous vitality that creates our precarious habitations in the past and the future. So we live; a spirit that broods and hovers over the continual death of time, the lost meaning, the unrecaptured moment, the unremembered face, until the final chop chop that ends all our moments and plunges that spirit back into the void from which it came.”
So yea, write about illusions. Or perhaps not even that way, but how the ordinary gets transmogrified when we become truly conscious.
Whaddaya know, it’s mid July. June’s pretty much wedding season. And the holiday season’s not quite over is it? Frankly the past year(s) have been illuminating. In terms of friendships, life, love, writing, whatever. And no it’s not quite over yet. Coz we’re not done living yet. I watched a Ted talk yesterday. The guy talked about human needs. The need for certainty. Sure. The need for uncertainty. Err yes, because life gets boring otherwise. The need to feel significant. Wahoo. The need for connection and love. Connection, yes. Love, too scary. I’ll leave you with a quote from Vladimir Nabokov: “At eighty-five…he saw his decline as a ripening and an apotheosis.” Hope you’re inspired to write already.
Now that you’re nearer to the end of life, does it seem like things have come full circle? Or does it seem like it takes a lifetime to untangle the mess that attends to most lives? Or maybe you’ve satisfied your work goals and you’re now looking at other ways of self-fulfilment? I mean, there’s got to be new growth at every stage of life, am I right? Or do you believe in renunciation? Or if not that, then to simplify your lifestyle? You tell me, I’m curious to know. Whatever it is, your life isn’t really settled, or is it? What have you settled and what have you not? Do you feel smug because you’ve got it all figured out? Try to answer this in a poem.