I LOVE music. The sound of a tinkling piano and the heavy sound of a bass guitar. The wailing of David Gilmour’s lead guitar. The soprano sax of Paul Desmond and the echoing horn of Miles Davis’ trumpet. I love music but it feels a world apart, like an abstract science I could never muster.
I LOVE art. The look of an empty canvas appeals to me. An art supply shop thrills me. The detail and precision of a Vermeer or Ingres painting. The daring of a Picasso. The thick swirling paste of Vincent using olive green, cobalt blue or bright yellow. A painter’s tools. But like music, it feels a world apart. It is not tangible. I cannot touch or taste it.
WRITING is somehow different. I have so many inspiring books scattered around me at home. Beautiful modern editions in hardbacks of works by D H Lawrence and Katherine Mansfield. Large biographies, letters, collected works of Sylvia Plath, Colm Toibin first editions, Alex Miller’s fresh novels as they appear in hardback, Virginia Woolf’s diaries and letters, a multitude of Lawrence books from as early as 1913, through to the 20’s and 30’s.
It feels more tangible. I can put pen to paper and it can make sense. But I cannot make it amount to anything much. I can’t seem to write about imagined relationships, romance or mystery plots, gothic settings, even very much on personal relationships, real life observations, philosophical rants. I can put opinions down as well as vague, random memories and places I have seen. But I can’t seem to write fiction.
Writing fiction is something I would really like to do. I would like to write a story about an elderly man who is grappling with the sudden illness of his wife (Tobin), or a story about a lonely spinster who pretends her life has meaning and that she is somehow an important player on the world’s stage (Mansfield), or a woman who is deeply affected by the incidental touch of a man’s hand in the middle of the night (Lawrence), maybe a woman who has married too young and has a dalliance with a priest with far-reaching consequences (Miller), or a woman who spends much of her adult life fearing a descent into madness and depression (Plath and Woolf).
I so much wish I could write.
I wish I could write really long, meaningful sentences that dip, and soar, and take the reader on an emotional journey, and have lots of commas- and pauses- and other sections where you read really, really fast like your sentence has suddenly become filled with action; only to end obscurely…
I wish I could find interesting verbs to use in an imaginative way, like shimmer or shatter or glisten or glitter.
I wish I could conjure up a really effective simile, much better than saying ‘her face was as clean as the skin of an onion when the outer layer is carefully peeled back.’
To be able to create a great metaphor would be even better, much better than saying ‘she didn’t feel love for her mother anymore because her heart had turned to stone.’
My page sits empty. A rough sketch or draft is perhaps created, on a good day, but then it fizzes like rain that has fallen on a fiery rocket that threatened to be launched into the air.
Maybe I am waiting for a fox to appear as it did for Ted Hughes:
‘I imagine this midnight
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.
Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:
Cold, delicately as the dark
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now
Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come
Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Coming about its own business
Till, with a sudden sharp hot
stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.’
But, like Sylvia Plath, I don’t expect a miracle to occur, even in the vision of a black rook outside in a tree in the rain:
On the stiff twig up
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain-
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident
To set the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall
Without ceremony, or portent.
Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can't honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Out of kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then —
Thus hallowing an interval
By bestowing largesse, honor
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); sceptical
Yet politic, ignorant
Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant
A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content
Of sorts. Miracles occur.
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance
Miracles. The wait's begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent.
That rare, random descent awaits me. I will call on it in another life when my mind will be less crowded, where I will no longer care so much for the distractions of the news of the world. Where the view from my window will be a green valley or the green sea. And you never know, I may have some rich experiences as well that I can draw on.