At last. With the hubbub of Christmas (weeks and weeks of it) quietening, clear space to think again.
I woke at 9am today in an empty house (i put the cat out last night, to have this rare bliss). I can’t remember the last time I slept so late, so soundly. I opened up Strong Words – my tarot pack – to find an interview with Derek Walcott where he talks to Matthew Hollis about 2 things i’ve been considering lately: the nature of truth, and the poet on his/her poetry. Of the latter, DW says something like, the most pertinent insight into the poet’s thoughts about his/her poetry is contained in the poems. He compares it to a painter not necessarily feeling a need to explain the process and technique of a painting, the way a writer might.
Here is the painting, look. And here is the poem.
DW also says “The primary responsibility (of a poet) is honesty to his craft, and not to lie…”.
Not lying is not the same as sticking to the facts. I think that an illusive truth – what Herzog calls ‘the ecstatic flash’ – is often found outside facts and reality. Stories can teach us so much that the News can’t.
I’ve been thinking about both these things in some sessions I ran at MRC Westminster as part of my mini-residency there with English PEN. It seems to me that talking about your own poems, explaining them, can be like showing a magic trick after you’ve revealed the trick. There’s no magic anymore.
I can hear an owl hoot. It must be noon by the kitchen clock – a different bird calls every hour. The owl’s call should really be at midnight but the clock is silent then, when we sleep.
A year is ending, a new one about to begin. We balance on the cusp, all of us, full of hopes and desires for the new year. I want mine to have lots of good work in it, plenty of reading and writing, and love and good health for everyone. I know the last is not possible, but we can hope.
And happiness – a good amount of that too. Also fun – for the children and for us all.