Saturday, November 28, 2020



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 moment’s forest:
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 snow
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,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
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 there
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
Lean incandescent

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
Otherwise inconsequent

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.


Unknown said...

Hey Darren
Writing is addictive. I'm in the process of writing a fiction piece. It's a romance - which makes me feel slightly embarrassed, however there is no mistaking that I am deeply in love with my characters. I find myself wondering what Cody or Bridget ( the main characters) would think about certain things, how they would respond. They feel so real to me. My husband recently told me he feels jealous that I spend so much time with them!

Your simile about the rain on the rocket is lovely.

Here's a piece of my writing -

Cody is aware of the cauldron of anger bubbling away. He is not cognisant of all the ingredients and their significance but knows this is a stew of Stella’s making and he is being forced to stomach it again as he is witnessing the deception of Isaac and the innocence of Bridget who will inevitably be served a bowl of it. Mongrel! He even looks like one of Stella’s lot; not the ones she beds, oh no, she is very particular about that; athletic, elite, muscular, known – but one of her model men, the ones like her who hold and wield personal power because of their beautiful faces and proportionately perfect bodies. Through the osmosis of primping, preening and glossing, they are imbibed with the belief they are desirable and therefore can choose whoever they want to satisfy their own desires – after all, who wouldn’t want perfection lying next to them. Such arrogance!
Self- condemnation is a condiment in the stew – I was a fool. He remembers in the early days driving down the Eastern Freeway near the old match factory and she came up on his left. Larger than life, bronzed, glittered, seductive in a well- known underwear brand and he would smile and turn around to the cars next to him, ‘Weep fellas, she’s in my bed tonight!’ Over time there were days he would glance at the billboard and warn them, ‘Beauty is just a deception fellas’, and finally when it ended, he drove another way entirely until someone told him she was replaced by an airline and a handsome pilot in a hat.
Lies flavour the motley meal and they come in all different textures; blatant, white, half- truths; disinformation, evasion and whoppers. They are disguised like zucchini in pasta sauce for children, hidden and are unwittingly digested. Ignorance may be bliss, but deceit is cruel. It’s not until the feast becomes unpalatable and it is spewing out in a torrent, creating a stink that suddenly the recipe becomes known. Cody remembers the mess.


harrison said...

Thank you I like the imagery and the psychology. It is in 3rd person though. Is this safer? Do you have the courage, like Joni Mitchell, to use first person?

Unknown said...

"Screw my courage to the sticking post and I will not fail"...Macbeth knew what his sticking post was, I'm not as sure!
I'm musing about the narrative voice - I like first person, however it has become a contemporary idea and I find it a bit limiting. Omnipotent narration creates wider reflection.
In some chapters I have chosen the first person- but only for repetition and contrast.

My deliberations keep bringing me back to learning to trust in my authorial choices, because after all, I am the creator.