I Have to Rethink My Existence
I find it occasionally surprising that I’m in the same backyard nearly 20 years later. I find it surprising that I’m still standing. Still sitting, I suppose would be more accurate. And still writing, even if I don’t seem to be getting much of that done lately. I remember being so furious in my early days of publishing to be called prolific (usually by male writers in horrible reviews of my work). There are times when we are more fecund than others, and being called prolific, when you know how hard won anything you’ve written has been, and how exhausted you are because of it, seemed like such a remarkable slap in the face. How I wish I felt prolific now.
Some days I feel at peace with where I am creatively speaking, and other days I feel so splintered and fractured and angry and frazzled. It’s just, shouldn’t things get easier instead of constantly freaking harder? Well. (I guess you can tell which day today is).
At times like this, I go back to White Ink by Hélène Cixous. In it she says, in response to an interviewer:
“At this moment I am in a period of uneasiness because I have to rethink my existence: I have too many demands placed on me and I feel threatened.”
So at least there is company in rethinking one’s existence, not that the demands placed on me are in the same territory as HC’s. Still. One finds comfort.
I read a book a while ago, that I both admired and was frustrated by. I just couldn’t see myself in it quite enough, which isn’t the author’s fault at all. I underlined a number of things, and dogeared it, so you know it held meaning for me. Perhaps, it’s because I’m not overly familiar with the writer's other work, his poems. Perhaps it’s because the kind of freedom that he appears to have while writing this book is never going to be possible for me. (Orphic Paris by Henri Cole). I’ll probably read this book a year from now and find it charming, and lovely, and the “delicate, affectionate” memoir that the back cover tells me it is. I mean, it is. I loved certain passages for perhaps obvious reasons:
“When I write abut flowers, I think I am trying to find out what I really feel, so there are digressions and sometimes incoherence. But flowers open me up and smash the water that is frozen inside me.”
And I like thinking about this, too:
“A knack for writing verse doesn’t necessarily make one a good poet. What defines a poet is a certain universal quality that entails being attuned to the secret vibrations of the world; this does not always include a gift for versification, which is an aptitude practiced by many who are not truly poets.”
And one last quotation about poetry, which is gorgeous:
“I want to write poems that are X-rays of the soul in moments of being and seeing. This includes the ghastly, the insane, and the cruel, but also beauty, Eros, and wonder. In short, a poem is like a portrait. It is an artist’s most profound and expressive response to life.”
As always, one writes what one can, into that thin sliver of possibility, from wherever one happens to be. For me it’s the backyard, and sometimes I write in my car in the parking lot of the Canadian Tire. At other times I write in the gray chair in the corner of my study, which is a space I love. Paris, really, isn’t necessary. One can write about flowers, just as easily in Edmonton. And they’re flowers, all the same.