No, it’s true I haven’t written every week on art I’ve seen, nor every fortnight on books I’ve read, nor at all on anything else. We labour, we strive, we kick against the relentless onslaught of time and life and brains empty of ideas. And they kick back. Still we don’t give up.
I have in the past attempted to learn how to write poetry. I even bought a book on the subject, by the wonderful Stephen Fry called The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within.
And what I got through is great, but I never got very far. Writing never seemed like a relaxing pastime but rather like work – not in a bad way, there’s work that’s enjoyable – but neither in a relaxing way, especially when before you can write a poem you need to go through all these very great and very useful but not at all exciting exercises. I wanted write great poems, not learn how to write them. That’s my great problem with all my artistic endeavours – impatience.
What occurred to me the other day, however, is what a tool I’ve been about all this. You may have thought, dear reader, that if I was so interested in learning to write poetry I must be a lover of reading poetry. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that, because it makes sense. After all, why would someone want to write poetry if they didn’t enjoy reading great poets? The answer, dear reader, is because they’re a tool.
When I was (not very) younger I scorned poetry even though I loved art, to the surprise of some who knew me. Over time I had softened to realise that I had a particular picture of poetry in mind, a caricature of twee sentimentality and head-in-the-clouds denial of reality that simply isn’t fair to what good poetry actually is. However despite occasionally stumbling on the odd poem I enjoyed such as this one with which I introduced this blog to the world, I’ve never really been moved to go out and get into some of the well-known poets and see what they have to contribute.
I think it was watching Midnight in Paris a week or so ago that stirred again the fire of this love in me. The film itself was OK but it stoked the embers of my desire for that period (imperfect s it was, of course) and these great writers/painters (I also have a new quest to read Hemmingway. A must). At any rate something clicked a couple of days ago and I went and bought this big compendium of one particular critic’s picks of the best poems in the English language, from a wide range of authors. And though I’ve only read a couple, smokes I’ve been moved.
And there is nothing that could move me to want to learn to use language in this way more than reading the beauty of their words. It surely is the same with art too. It’s when I get to galleries and see what’s possible and what visions people have had and how they sought to bring them to fruition that I’m most moved and long most fervently to engage in this long dormant side of myself again. And yet things get busy and I get lazy on Saturdays and I haven’t gone for so long. And when that happens and I get taken up with the every dayness of life it becomes so hard to motivate myself to create, though I don’t understand why I find it so hard because I know I love it deep down. But I remove it from my life. I assume that I must do it first and then it can be a part of me and I can give myself to love it. I always said, I always knew what many don’t realise about me – that it’s not enough for me to make art (or write poetry, I suppose) as a hobby. It must be my life or nothing. I must immerse myself in it, it must be my passion or else I can’t do it. I can’t dabble on the side. Therefore, having chosen a different path for myself (and without regret) I haven’t known how to keep this in my life. It has felt like pushing a rock up a hill which constantly rolls out of my hands and back down to the valley whenever I get distracted with the great Everything Else. Yet, though it often does take a long time for the creaky cogs of my dotty brain to turn over what should be pretty simple realisations, I now know the way forward. I must immerse myself in it yes, not first as a doer but as a lover. Love precedes action. And I’ll reclaim my love.
I’ve discovered John Donne, and I’m besotted. I look forward to sharing him with you.