You know how scientific analysis sometimes requires killing what it is seeking to understand first? I feel like this at the moment about writing. As soon as I talk about it, even here, the idea, or the impulse or the work itself is killed, stone dead. Sure, we can look at the structures of the work under the microscope, but whatever that was that inspired me to make something has been snuffed out.
I’m tired. The joy in writing a thing has been deadened somewhat by the complete lack of response by potential publishers. I know I am not supposed to let this get to me, blah, blah van Gogh only sold one painting etc. But with Van Gogh, people avoided him, and to stay mentally well enough to paint, he needed the support of a variety of doctors and whatever treatments they could offer, as well as the encouragement of his brother.
I am not van Gogh.
But I fear writing about writing, or my recent lack of writing, will be the analysis that destroys the mystery. This is the reason I haven written about my poetry experiment here. I don’t want to kill whatever keeps me trying to write. And yet, I want to talk about the value and joy of manipulating other people’s words (be it a Bronte sister or the authors of A Dictionary of the Social Sciences -1964) through the deceptively simple technique of erasure poetry to create something new. And the benefits and freedom of relative anonymity in doing so. Since Poetry Month finished I can let you know I made it.
I set up an anonymous Insta account, and every day over April and into May I sent at least one poem into the world, either something wholly original or a black out poem. In fact I’ve done so since March. It means the world to me that a happy few readers accepted these poems without knowing who I was or where I am from. It was liberating too, writing without expectation or the shadow of ‘me-ness’.
I’ve wound down a little since then.
But the other thought I’ve had about this poetry effort is that it hasn’t cured anything. My overall writing situation is unaltered.
I am not magically changed by this experiment either, although it met an unrecognised need. It helped me feel like I could attempt poetry. Poetry always comes with grandiose expectations because of its long history and because it distils language into patterns freighted with significance. Or, as I found out, it doesn’t have to at all.