Just a word

I thought that I’d try to update the ‘About’ page of the blog the other day. Nothing fancy of course, just a few words to reflect the shifting focus. Or rather, the fact that I’d finally acknowledged that ‘the voice’ that I had been impatiently waiting for these past few years had been there all along.

No matter, I quickly typed something that I thought was to the point and, well, appropriate. In all likelihood it was crap. I honestly can’t remember, you see I read it and was struck by the fact that I was uncomfortable with one line. I played it around and around my head and it didn’t sit well with me. The real stumbling block was one word. Never have I spent so much time on one seemingly insignificant word. Just a word and the word was ‘just’.

“Poetry is just a peg to hang stuff on.”

What on earth did I mean by that? Isn’t it a bit dismissive? The problem is that I in no way consider myself a poet – good, bad or indifferent. I’ve been using the tag as somewhere to hang stuff; ideas, words, feelings, sounds. That doesn’t necessarily make it poetry, that’s for others to decide. It’s the librarian in me, I need to order these things, put them on a shelf.

What would others who knew, lived and breathed and seemingly understood poetry think of such a statement? I didn’t want to appear to belittle an art form, that was not my meaning. How many times is that word word used to dismiss individuals, groups, ideas, movements? It seemed like very dangerous ground.

Could I just drop the ‘just’? Well, I could but that would make it a rather bold, definitive statement and I’m no expert. I certainly wasn’t comfortable with saying “my poetry” because again I would be making a pronouncement on what I am and do. It’s not that clear cut.

This line of thought inevitably became circular. Around and around it went and the only way for it to stop was to cut it, all of it. Gone. It was the only just solution.

Fear and loathing in Strathconon

I’ve started writing again, though to be honest that’s not strictly true or false. I never really started or stopped. I’ve formed ideas, composed pieces, tested sentences, lines and verse, framed and sequenced images for as long as I can remember. But except for a very brief period, and mostly out of necessity, never really wrote anything down. I played the ideas around in my head until I or they were exhausted. Then they were gone, perhaps making a reprise at a later date, often not. The fear of committing anything to paper or hard drive, the fear of exposing pointless notions to public scrutiny, generally just the fear.

Then it occurred to me the other day – and not for the first time – that actually, fundamentally, very few people are really interested in anything I have to say. Now most people at this point would take the hint and shut up. Me? No, I finally realised that this was perfect. Nobody will read it, nobody will care. It doesn’t have to be finished, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be ignored. I can actually write without fear of anything or anyone, after all they’re not really there. Finally I can get this stuff out of my head. All those mental exercises. Then I too can ignore it. Who wants a head full of nonsense anyway?

Applying myself

The form has been sitting

and using up space on my empty hard drive

for days.

An unwelcome reminder

of a relentless absence of aptitude,

a relentless penchant for procrastination.

So it sits,

taunting, teasing and trying to test

whilst I, in turn,

turn the other cheek and check

if the kettle is ready for another brew.

And while I drink, I stew some more

on what could have been,

what should,

but for the lack of application.

I will not pretend

My experiences over the past week or so have been mixed and interesting. I’ve encountered considerable generosity and goodwill and had to balance that with some serious decision making. I’ve had to play the game and remain true myself. Occasionally I’ve had to draw a line.

I’m mindful that having had the luxury of choice in my life made this week a roller coaster I could step off, rather than a merry-go-round that I couldn’t. I’m not sure that I’d have, or be willing to expend, that sort of energy on a regular basis any more. In the past? Perhaps.

You have to use your energies where they are needed most and still retain some joy for life. Being bitter is never as good as a pint of it. And so, as I checked on the boys sleeping in their beds last night I received a timely reminder. Probably one of the most important pieces of advice someone could pass on to their child. As I stood there in the dark the voice on the CD player was calm and deliberate:

“When you grow up and have children of your own, do please remember something important. A stodgy parent is no fun at all! What a child wants -and DESERVES- is a parent who is SPARKY!” 

I stayed a moment longer in the silence, then drew another line.

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