Friday, 22 February 2008

I’m an opsimath, and thank you

How I’ve missed my blog! My online poetry-writing course is brilliant, it is laying out new pathways in my brain and excites and exhilarates me, but as a baby-poet amidst students who have been reading and writing for ages I feel like a small child showing off mud-pies ‘baked’ in the sandpit. I’m also feeling the strain of writing in a foreign language like never before. Doesn’t stop me though, I’m here to learn and explore and experiment and enjoy. The tutor is kind and supportive and always manages to find a little something that’s interesting in my efforts, bless him, and had some lovely things to say about Old woman, but I know he’s making allowances for me. That's o.k.
I am so grateful for the chance of trying myself out in new ways, stretching myself, and the sad news I had on Monday, about a friend finally giving up her struggle to stay alive, underline this. Last week, just when I was fiddling with a small poem about an old woman, her chance of reaching old age was taken away irrevocably. I’ve been writing furiously this week, as ever in fits and spurts when my energy allowed, but glad I had something that I could focus on intermittently. That’s where writing is different to say, crocheting, which leaves parts of my mind unoccupied and might facilitate a steady descent into the pits. While I write all of my attention is in that act, and it’s helped me to keep at bay for bits of time the overwhelming sadness of losing M., whose lovely sparkly face continually hovers around the edge of my vision.
So this small pebble of a poem is for you, M.

Old woman

A tattered arm-chair holds her,
the lavish parade of velvety petunias outside
just smouldering blotches of red.

Inside her a huge eye is prised open:
girl with pig-tails turning pages
of mail-order catalogue,
early evening waiting-for-dad song curdling into lullaby,
the shuddering terror of spider in hair (they’d laughed at her fears),
the dry rustling of autumn leaves kicked up with glee. 

Words sail through her mind like zeppelins:
incarnadine, inamorata, inchoation. Line in a poem
she can’t fully remember: ‘arms limp like carrots’.

Through the window the sky’s a steady spectacle, turning
from blue to white to pink to night.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

This is a thank you!

It’s almost a year since I’ve started my blog, and it’s been brilliant! My world has become so much bigger. Introducing artwork that would otherwise have remained unseen, reflecting on my processes, talking about what inspires me has been great, but most importantly, I’ve made connections with other artists, with you. I’ve come to feel part of a wider artists’ community again, and although contact and communication within that community is through virtual means, it is open and giving and inspiring and real and has helped mend some of this artist’s anxieties about being invisible, inaudible and out of touch. Many a morning I’ve gone straight from bed to computer to check if new messages greeted me, and that click on new ‘comments’ makes my heart beat in anticipation every time.
That my writing would blossom here was unexpected. Producing texts about my work has always been a way of making me think deeper, examining the pieces more closely from a slightly different vantage point, just aside of the maker’s. And although I always took great care when I wrote statements about my art I saw these as secondary, their main function to support and illuminate the art. This has changed here. Inspired by the positive feedback I’ve received I’ve dared to post discreet text-pieces, relying on the imagery held within.
Writing is an even more secretive pursuit than making art. My artwork is at least visible to those who see me at home, bits and pieces, unfinished as well as completed, are always scattered around the flat. Words on paper are more elliptical, and need to be actively offered up. My confidence has grown with every enthusiastic, even excited comment about my words, and it’s made me want to explore writing more seriously. Here’s my news: I’m now a student on a writing poetry online-course!! It’s a great challenge, mainly in terms of my energy and ME-clogged headspace. It will mean less art-making, alas, and I'll become even more of a minimal blogger – but please don't stop checking in, I'll be around. I'm so very hungry for new experiences and poetry beckons to me like a country that I’ve never been to. I can’t physically get around much so this is how I’ll do it, from bed if needs be. I’ll become an explorer! A space traveller! A deep-sea diver! The captain of a steamship, a story-teller, a bird, a sea-anemone, a witch, a wild thing, a piece of rock on the moon, a ray of sun. Spring is in me.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

About speaking

There are periods when I am too tired to speak. It’s made me aware that speaking is a twofold effort – mental and physical. Real fatigue not only muddles and slows down one’s thought processes or at worst all but extinguishes them, but transforms every tiny action into an arduous mission. When I’m at my most poorly, and thank goodness these severe periods have become rarer and shorter, forging clear chains of thought and transforming them into comprehensible and meaningful sounds is on the far side of possible. In the extended enforced silence my own voice becomes strange to me. I have become unsure and self-conscious about speaking (up) and often think I’m speaking too loud, even though friends assure me that I’m not.
To get used to hearing myself speaking again, to make it normal to myself, I have started to read poetry aloud. Had a lovely experience with my current favourite, Louise Gl├╝ck’s Snowdrops, which I tried to learn by heart. Initially my voice sounded feeble and monotonous and seemed to diminuish the power of the poem but I read the words again and again and again. In time making friends with the poem’s rhythms helped unfold layers of meaning that had escaped me before. I could feel my throat unclenching and my voice becoming full and resonant, until I finally seemed to embody what I read and cried ‘yes risk joy’ with such a burst of emotion, of pleasure, exhilaration and real bliss, as if it/the poem/the words had come out of me naturally.