Monday, January 30, 2012

Pith in the Wind

Awake at five - no choice but to go with it: fruit, coffee, quality time with the cat who appreciates the early breakfast. Fruit and coffee is not the best breakfast and could play havoc with blood sugar. But I forestall this by having a second breakfast of bacon and egg. Between first and second breakfasts I gather bits and pieces for a poetry idea I have brewing. I do it quickly and haphazardly but with a certain kind of method born of long practice: the words have been whispering themselves in the small hours, I get them down before they grow thin as smoke and disappear. Remembering them later will not be the same as being in their presence. I look up a couple of references, but don't get stuck on this. Whatever you do, don't walk through the magic door of the computer screen and lose yourself in the internet or La Belle Dame Sans Merci will have you palely loitering, all words lost.

I am writing a short sequence about my stepfather, who died last year, drawing on memories (his and mine) and imaginings. I want to set down things for which I have no adequate vocabulary because they are closely related to a landscape I never really inhabited. But I have discovered that the hard, spiky grass growing on the dunes by the sea at Montrose in the north-east of Scotland is called Marram grass. It is good to be able to name things, but for much else I will have to rely on commonplace words like stone, water, wind, mist, and bring my imaginative eye close, so as to feel their particularities.

My stepfather, who was mostly my ex-stepfather for the many years that I knew him, more or less disappeared ten years ago, when he cut off contact with everyone apart from the one person he lived with. It was a loss felt keenly by his friends and family who learned of his death ten months after the event. So the bits and pieces I am putting together are possibly an attempt at some kind of restoration. The imagined past, he once said, reflects the lived present.

I just remembered that I promised something short, pithy and unspeakably heroic - and this is hardly that. Damn. But on the other hand, these few words and the others are probably the most I can do in the short time available. And considering the mountain (well, small hill) of other tasks that clamour for my energy and attention, there is something of the heroic here, even with the lack of pith. But you can't have everything.



Megan said...

The words ARE there, whispering. What a perfect description of writing poetry. (And of the lure of the Internet rabbit hole!)

Anna MR said...

Lovely you - even if it means you woke up at an ungodly hour, I feel spoilt by two posts of yours, hot on the heels of each other.

(Not untypically of moi, I am thinking mostly of my pleasure at your words, rather than your displeasure at waking up so early. Shame on me.)


Reading the Signs said...

Megan, that early morning time - so hard to catch it sometimes, but the whispering is strongest then. And just before I sleep.

Anna, I slept in the afternoon - which might mean I don't sleep till small hours tonight. But hey ho. (Mwah!)

Wendy said...

Not so much pithy and heroic as evocative, soulful. As always x

Reading the Signs said...

:) x