Thursday, 10 December 2009

new writing

It seems that these days I mostly write to communicate with friends - I write poems, especially. Has this much to do with the autobiographical slant I have pursued of late? I have recently published an autobiography in verse ... Life Class, in 5,000 lines. (Shoestring Press.) It has turned out to be not as private and introverted as I might have feared, for it seems to be reaching out more effectively (if quietly, so far) than almost anything else I have written - perhaps because it comes most deeply from my feelings and experience.

As I turn over this thought, I also reflect on the extent to which the very greatest artists left no or hardly any biographical tracings. We know so little about Shakespeare that it has led to a whole genre of speculation in which his authorship, even his very existence, is held in doubt. How little we know of Bach, other than his shiftings from one church to another in a small area of Germany, his squabbles with authorities about music and money, his evident stamina, his many children, and the late neglect of him in his blindness and after; the above says nearly everything, yet is so little to build a whole book from in the modern sense of verbose biography - one is left to subjective (or maybe not so subjective) interpretation of his music, the quantity and the golden scope and power of it, the pathos in the creations of this unattraactive-looking man in an 18th century wig, who had nothing to learn from Chopin about pathos.

The strange experience has been that as I have been turning my skin inside out in, in autobiographical fashion, the more private in a social sense I have become. Partly, this is the effect of cancer, which inhibits travel even as little as I am used to it, and one doesn't wish to become a possible obligation to those one meets, nor to carry bad news. Partly from weariness at the world political climate, and at most of our art (not by all of it, though) which it blindly and negatively (mostly) reflects. Partly it is the burden of my equally great and insoluble unhappiness from another cause, that I will not share. And largely becuse the final phase of life is (or should be) a spiritual one, which is essentially private unless one is an evangelist or a communal worshipper of a Faith. (Which I think it unlikely I could become.) (I also reflect with some consolation as well as sadness that, from St Francis to Baudelaire, it seems that the price exacted by Fate for wisdom and spiritual value is to be forced to pay with the consequences of an excessive or misguided youth.)

Therefore my spiritual centre has become more and more a tiny, stone hut, without amenities, isolated by a stream running off a steep hill 30 miles north of my home. This is not from disatisfaction with my Pennine cottage where I have both lived and dwelled for 40 years - on the contrary, it is still a place of delight and peace. Ironically, cancer swept in early this year and took awa the opportunity to spend much time (as yet) in my hut, as soon as it was discovered and achieved, yet visits are frequent, to ponder there and to wander.