Poetry – harbinger of joy or tears.

Looking back at some of my  poems, none I may add, acclaimed by anyone, I am surprised at the ups and downs reflected there.

There are many who find poetry a balm and sometimes a boost and even a spark in the darkest of places. This piece tries to identify with the darkest places, unlike some poems it offers no solace, just a recognition how bad things can be. There is ambivalence about the subjective ‘us’ victim or persecutor or even observer content to sit on our hands

 –    There’s black in every heart‘      is one of those where I try to share the deep hopelessness and sadness that can prevail  in the most difficult times and moods. The reason I wrote the poem is still vivid in my mind, I have since been overtaken by happy and glorious times .  But the goings on in Myanmar remind me of the darkness we can all feel. I pray that those who suffer will be delivered from their earthly hell.  Please can we all help – in any way at all.

 

 

  There’s black in every heart, it spins like the sun

  There lurks the antimatter to our joy.

  It spins and pulls the light away

Sending hurtful splinters

Anywhere, even at the things we love,

things so fragile.  Too late, – we realize

Another hateful arrow finds

a random target and despair surrounds us

It spins and pulls the light away.

Looking out we can see nothing

other than that loathsome pity for ourselves.

There’s black in every heart, it spins like the sun.

Who cares what hurt that we have done,

what flower cut down, what trust betrayed?

There lurks the antimatter to our joy.

They talk of hope, they have none.

Not while this black hole burns coldly in our souls.

It spins and pulls the light away.

There is no light,

We choose to blind ourselves and turn away,

There’s black in every heart, it spins like the sun

Alone in our individual anguish,

misery and icy loneliness.

There lurks the antimatter to our joy

Don’t pity us,

We are below deserving.

It spins and pulls the light away.

Fear us for we can

spoil and smear and desecrate.

There lurks the antimatter to our joy.

Don’t give us love

We don’t need it; We shall hide,

here in the blackness of our hearts.

 

Thick-skinned writers.

Let’s face it we’re not all great writers.  In fact very few of us are.  Nevertheless, we persevere and produce labours of love in whatever form we think we are good at.

When our major work, which has sometimes taken years to complete, is done there remains an almost universal desire to seek the approbation even admiration of our friends’ colleagues and readers. How then are we to react when our work is considered poor?

The reasons why our readers find it so are many and various, some deserved some perhaps not as valid as others.  Nevertheless,  criticism can hurt.  There’s no use denying it.

Is there a defense mechanism that can help us ward off the hurt?  Probably not, but what we can do, is go again.  Write some more, but when we do we should if possible take yesterdays’ criticism as tomorrow’s guideline, at least to some extent.  If we are to write anything worthwhile we have to believe that one day someone will read what we’ve written and say: “Hey, that was worth my time.” That’s possibly the greatest compliment of all, we filled their moments with words that exercised their minds and made them think,  enquire, cry, laugh or even be amazed. This is the challenge every writer faces and very few writers achieve.

I hear you say, that’s ‘baloney’.  I don’t think it is, but equally, I believe that the business of writing has become a very tough place to be.  The commercial mainstream demands excellence in well-trodden genres, yet there are still astonishing breakthroughs.  However, it remains true that the readers enjoy the hero rather than the anti-hero,  that readers have habits and areas of comfort where they are comfortable.  Do we, as writers, want to follow or lead. That is the question each one of us has to answer.

The thing is, we’re all storytellers, and some stories are better than others. It is the unpredictable that makes us tick, the ability to wander around in the frontier-less expanses of our minds.  No one has been there before, and no one but us can tell where the stories will lead. Good for us, let’s write another one. Somebody somewhere might like it.

Keeping the faith.

Having started writing a novel, the enormity of the commitment creeps up on you.  What have you done?  An idea is one thing but translating it into a novel is quite another.  The first chapter is hard enough, but in some ways is the easiest.  Your enthusiasm is high your belief in the dominant idea is strong – what can go wrong?

Lots actually. If you let it go wrong.  This is where the creative writer really earns his spurs.  Finding your way from the succinctness of a simple idea to the complexities of a story that fascinates, is a long and arduous journey.  It needs concentration, discipline and most of all courage (guts).

Sometimes the idea is easy to center in a plot that is coherent – if this happens early then ride it, write and write till your hands hurt.  However, more likely, it will be more difficult and you may have many changes of heart along the way. Even to the extent of rejecting the dominant idea.  Kick it out and start again.  Kick it out and give up.  Kick it out and, sod it, I’ll never even try again!  All these are degrees of response when the going gets tough.  Well in most cases it is going to get tough, some call it writers’ block, but I don’t think that’s an accurate description of the crisis that besets every writer no matter what the degree of his/her accomplishment.

It is a crisis of creativity or lack of it.  We all have to be courageous enough to untie the restrictions that tie us down.  This is remarkably hard to do, like walking on the edge of a cliff with a blindfold. Really scary!

Go there.  Go where you’ve never been before and always remember there are no limits to your imagination. There are no frontiers, so step off the edge and see where you land.

Forgiveness – the gift of love.

Forgiving something small is easy,

excusing someone you hardly know;

but some one close, who fails you

that’s a wound, an open sore.

 

So when to mend the scars and how?

We need the answers now.

Lest the wounds we bear

fester, get angrier and grow.

 

Still, dark angers urge redress.

Surely there’s no sense in this.

Strike back and hurt, at least a bit.

as deeper gets the vengeful pit.

 

We need not vengeance here; but healing,

to find a balm for all the pain.

Easier far to repay in spite,

then hate wins, despite love’s might.

 

Turn back, turn back; from the abyss

where darkness rules the day.

Let light flood in to heal the wounds,

despite our instinctive way.

 

It is not easy, to wipe away the hurt,

of injuries that stick like stinking dirt.

We must forgive; for that’s the only way,

for love to linger longer, despite the price we pay.

 

Ready, steady, start again!

Writing anything of worth we know takes real hard work.  Even more than that, we need to constantly develop ourselves as well as our skills and content.

On my latest project, which is in its infancy, I have already made some about-turns.  As any work/ novel progresses we must not be rigid about the initial idea being all consuming.  Sometimes this initial or dominant idea can become constricting and smother developing or better ideas.  Innovation and creativity rely on the discontinuous, the unexpected which in turn means reveling in the unplanned and listening to that part of us which the dominant idea tends to discount.

Chaos, I hear you say.  To an extent yes. It’s all a question of confidence to try new things, ideas and even vocabulary.  For example, most of us have a style which predetermines the words that fit.  What if we change that, and think more ardently about the things we know that come from outside this paradigm.  Do I swear a lot?  Answer; yes/No.  Do people swear a lot?  Answer; Yes they do.  Swearing is not my written style, how about listening on the street?  How about making the vernacular more strident? Is there enough lyricism in my writing, can I re-read out loud passages and enjoy them?  Do I find them engaging?  Why would my reader?

Of course, there comes a time in any work where the aim is set.  Even then, at rewrite stage, we have to keep an open mind.  You know what?  It might mean tearing the whole thing up and starting again.

 

Rolling the stone up the hill.

So, I’ve started the new book.  A thousand words have hit the page.  An idea is taking shape.  This first word, first paragraph, first page will condition the whole of the next year as the plot develops and redevelops.

Then, a finish line in perhaps a year but that’s the cruel bit because I know that finish line is an illusion.  Re-read, change, review.  Lose sleep, think what a waste of time it’s been. Re-group, start again the re-write won’t take long, will it?  Maybe another year, maybe another month.

Why did I start this?  Was it worth the effort? Will anybody love it like I do?  Maybe a few, maybe many, hey I might get discovered.  Then again I might not.

Shit, who wants to be a writer?  Just got to give that rock another shove up that impossible hill.

Getting down to writing.

How easy is that? Well not so easy if you are setting out to write another novel.  I wrote last week about the challenges and choices that face every author at the beginning of a new work.

I was once encouraged to just put down my bottom, sit up and type/write – no matter what the substance and sooner or later there will be something of value remaining that can contribute to the finished work.   Though I have reservations about where the empty page can take you.  An empty page and perhaps an empty mind!

Today, after mulling over the last week the development of the idea of “The beginning of my end” I’ve put a bit more flesh on the bone.  I still agonize about the autobiographical bit and how hard it is to avoid.  We are after all, what we have become through the data bank of our experience.  It is impossible to avoid even in this age of endless research tools.  The key is our imagination and our ability to imagine.

This should I suppose be limitless, but it seldom is, tied down as we are to the experience of our own being.  I find it impossible to get excited about certain options that are fantastic, sci-fi, horror and even brutal everyday crime.   There lie my limitations as an author.  A narrowly defined horizon that imprisons my imagination.

I will try to work to broaden my options and open my mind.  But even at 76, it’s hard to do despite having traveled more than most and enjoyed a relatively wild and certainly interesting life.

At least in this little blog, I’ve set myself up, to flex my imaginative muscles and step into a brand new horizon.  Who knows what I shall find there?

Harvesting the words – reviewing second drafts

Writing can be fun especially when you are in the full flood of imagination – the story unfolds ,the words tumble  out, there is excitement and almost unstoppable momentum.  There are struggles of course, as we build on the initial ideas, but it is easy to drive on and build the story.

When the story is done, then our work begins in earnest as we struggle to correct, polish, precis, and all the other things that bring our work to a minimum level of coherence.  This is hard, it needs patience and a self critical eye.  This is where most of us fail. The glamour of story telling is replaced by this dreadful pedantic nit picking; it’s not what we ant to do.  But do it we must.

Sadly this reluctance to perfect our once shining ‘idea’ of a story overwhelms us and we fall short.  It is just this failing which is what the literary agent focuses upon when he/she reject our work.  The story is lost often never to be seen again.  This is the dark place I spend too much time.

On then, on to the next blazing, side splitting story that perhaps no one will ever read.

Digging deep to find a story

Another day in paradise, not long now till be beat a retreat to the UK for the summer. Worked this morning writing and editing, my wife is top gun when it comes to syntax and punctuation.

Working on ‘A Touch of Class’ is not as easy as I thought in the sense that, I find the discipline of tense and person  hard, the story limps along a bit because of all these stops and starts, ensuring I’ve got this sentence and that paragraph nicely bedded.

This morning I had a lot of interruptions, about a termite attack, and the plan to repulse the attack and what it will cost, plenty, I’m afraid.

I work on, determined to do my thousand words, edit and work on this wretched platform stuff, no time left to think about the next story.

I shall be glad when ‘The Psychedelic Traveler’ is finished, it might be today’s mood. but it has been a work I have enjoyed only in parts.  Short stories need such a wealth themes and ideas, and yet they are finished so soon.  This book is not like writing a novel where you see your idea grow, sometimes very slowly.  With short stories, no sooner do I have the idea and it is finished and the necessity to find another is like a blister on your brain.

Then it will be time to think of Publishing, how?  I’ve tried many ways, all of them fairly unsatisfactory.  If I add to my daily chores, the pursuit of a useful agent, I will never have time to write anything worthwhile.

I sound like a manic depressive, I am not, it is just hard some times pushing myself to another thousand words, and worst of all admitting sometimes that those thousand words are shit.  Occasionally of course they are not shit, they are lovely, glorious, they make me cry and laugh and smile. Then I think how lucky I am to suffer from this obsession to write.

I’ve just been reading some of my old poetry, it has been a good experience. I cried a lot – surprised sometimes that I had written such moving stuff.  Maybe I should take a sabbatical and go back to it(poetry).

On BEING Seventy

 

Three score years and ten,

the end they say, my time is up!

My lurch into decrepitude lies unavoidably

beneath my uncertain feet.

 

Then downwards? Towards what end?

Hopefully to peace of mind and spirit.

Not hopelessly to hell, condemned by unforgiving diety

judging me as I  probably deserve.

 

Bits are metaphorically falling off,

Arthritic fingers, and flaccid parts

The extremities that mattered,

matter less as days tick by.

 

But things do still matter,

My accomplished grumpy rudeness

threatens equanimity in others.

I must resist the gurgled satisfaction.

 

All the hours, days and seconds do matter,

as things rush to their inevitable end,

There are those I love and care about

Much more than anyone would guess.

 

Each ticking second is as much worth

as when I wailed, balling in my pram.

Others giggled and enjoyed my baby charms,

more innocent than my  old acerbic wit.

 

Enjoy each remaining day,

Enchant the world with one’s experienced head and heart,

Be kind and mild, calm and quiet,

unlike the child, unlike the man.

 

So three score years and ten, is not the end!

It is a start to put so many rights and wrongs in place

and leave the dust of eternity untroubled

and of hearing laughs fade, and smiles melt sweetly away.