I’ve had a break from blogging because, to be honest, I’ve had a break from everything to do with writing. I’ve spent the best part of a month living as quietly as the festive season allows, reading and listening to music. I wasn’t passively waiting for an elusive muse; it was more that I was actively seeking something that will break open a suffocating shell of coping with life and return me back to living it.
Early in December I had a poem published about missing my Dad. I am proud of the poem and was touched by the response I received, but the whole experience terrified me. I’ve never published anything so personal before and I was afraid. Of course, all my work is shaded by my own experience but this poem felt less composed, more torn out of me. I felt a need to write it that wasn’t quite my own. I am so grateful to And Other Poems for publishing Séance because the experience made me think about my lifelong resistance – in poetry and in life – to share my feelings with people. I recognised that it needed to stop and yet there was an outer coping shell in the way and I wasn’t sure how to break through it.
The answer was to look to others who had done so. I’ve been re-reading Keats and what I see in his work, other than the unutterable beauty of his words, is a strong sense that the poems had to be written. There is an insistence to his writing that transcends any thoughts of an audience or of whether the words matter in any larger sense. This is what makes them matter so very much, and what makes them endure. Around the same time, I bought the album Holding Patterns by Laurence Fox. In his songs, there is the same insistence I see in Keats, a feeling that the songs had to be written. I am no music critic, and I’m not interested really in finding out if this is true. What matters to me is recognising that emotive cry in the dark, the creation of work that has to be done, however personal. As I listened to the album, I could hear both the raw intensity of the music and the careful delicacy of its construction.
I poured another glass of wine and put the album on again while sharp pieces of my outer shell of coping and fear shattered around me. It’s slightly terrifying and makes for a treacherous path, but the poems I have to write are free to be written now. I reached this freedom thanks to artists who were brave enough to go before me. When I need to steady myself on this new uncertain path, I will cling to the hope that perhaps one day my writing can reach out across time and distance and help someone else follow behind me. That is why there is such beauty in honest words and music, and that is the reason it will always matter.