"My Writing Life"
“My Writing Life”
...while up on the Brooklyn Bridge a man is standing in agony, waiting to jump, or waiting to write a poem...because if he advances another foot the pain of his love will kill him.”
(Henry Miller, Black Spring)
To give voice to something intimated and felt but not real yet, to give voice to the ‘world to come’ and to be driven to be its emissary, to hear a strange music that is composed of half-formed words as if down a long corridor in time and place but still deep within the mind, to wander, at least some of the time, in an often-desolate landscape of both loss and promise and want to describe the solitary creatures that hide there, to walk among ruins that almost seem familiar but somehow must have been forgotten and to want to name them:
...when Poetry Bus graciously asked would I fill in the title for “My ‘Writing Life” all this flashed in front of my eyes...instead of the years of darkness and poverty, whether wandering the streets or in attic or bedsit, or worse, for one born in a desperate country at a desperate time (the 1950’s) and not seeing much change despite all the cheap money (the 1990’s).
All this...instead of the lonely nights tapping the lettera 33, in different cities and places, mostly frequented by gifted rejects and malcontents of the world of normality, the paper piling high and years later the same paper dry and yellowed and the paper clips rusted through.
Likewise this voice is the steadfast vision that surfaces, in place of countless days in cheap cafés and even cheaper public bars, talking, endlessly talking, or the long bus rides halfway across continents (to Lawrence's New Mexico, Gatsos' Athens or Charles Haldeman's Hania) with the writing half decipherable months or years later, and the truly gifted ones you meet on the road because of this both blessed-and-cursed-writing-connection, the deluded ones, the damaged ones, alongside, of course, “this writing life”’s casualties, the ghosts of all the dead poets carried in the backpack: Mayakovski, Kerouac, Berryman, Sexton, Plath, Alfonsina Storni, Paul Celan, all leaning over your shoulder, and with their consummated pain added to your own, tearing to shreds every draft you compose in fire and blood, in drunkenness and despair, the first to the last!
...Instead also, of the years having people look at you as if you were a bit mad yourself, (a peculiar mixture of brain-damage, idiocy, and demonic possession), alongside the poverty on rent-day, constantly running out of cigarettes, the liver, brain and stomach damage from cheap alcohol, the pills, legal and illegal, weed, powder, and cooking sherry, the people asking you what you work at and not having an answer, those complaining of being unemployed when you see it as one of the few gifts left in this chicken-factory-of-a-life, the rejection letters, the wasted postage, the debt you will never repay...finally the poets that never got to write their poem, like joe dunne or billy holmes or dinky dunne, or who wrote its soulless need on their arm in a savagery of anesthesia and self mutilation, dead on pubic transport or in back alleys or in council flats where the neighbours could hardly read and cared even less...
...despite all this (and more) it is this deep, silent, half heard voice in the head and its promises to make sense of life and death and the uncountable losses that pile up in between, that came to my mind as well as lost in the distance once standing as a child in a barren-cold, simply cruel, landscape and seeing in front of me the long lines of magical books in the public library and when that being was murdered, years later, by a so-called Education-System, leaving one memory more easy to recall now waking to an adult-world (often without even a shred of decency to offer a human being): standing outside the new bookshop in an average-conservative-church-blighted Irish town at 15 and seeing a hundred promises of a better world in its windows and better still going inside and seeing a whole bookcase filled with poetry books that you could hold and open and journey in and out of realising there were other ‘mad men and mad women’ desperately hoping and dreaming in this world where it is good business to murder for money or country but a sin to sing or cry out in joy or pain or passion...
...and while some people argue that angels do not exist, the ‘writer’ or ‘poet’ part of me knew back then and knows now they do or did or will, because in the best of words (as in the best of worlds) each of us are summoned to make a better world and without a set of plans or a god or even a single politician that can be trusted anymore, words words words become the guide for those lost in this desert: an unborn-self, the not-yet-born promise that darkness will give way to light.
...And even if, looking back at these fractured pieces of "my writing life", this collision among the contradictions (collision of mind-and-body, of truth and conformity, of rent and creativity, money and freedom...) I have failed miserably at the task, which I know I have, at least I can know that in my own “Writing Life” I struggled to be true to the Voice back–then and back-there and in-there and for a moment, among the regrets and the pains and the often unbearable losses that life gives birth to there was, and still is, hope.
For what it’s worth for a “Writing Life” (that is, a pen, a page, an old Olivetti typewriter, or a keyboard, along with this inner urge to speak): it’s just another part of the mysterious terrifying journey from the darkness and despair of this ungodly silence we come out of/inhabit-within, through the dance of words and language, making an endless revolution of our struggle to meet and greet and embrace each other in the "world to come"...this world waiting to be born...all worth our summoning or singing-of or sharing-in or commingling-with, at the threshold where we stand now: the threshold of this New (Dark) Age where books - (and any “culture” that offends the smoke and mirrors and ruthless profit of this all-powerful-superficial-Celebrity-World we have inherited) - will be diagnosed as terminally ill, and all that will be left is the Voice inside, yours and mine, to keep our dreams and our revolution alive until we realise what it is to be a human being...
Who wanted to prepare the ground for friendliness
Could not ourselves be friendly.
But you, when the time comes at last
And man is a helper to man
Think of us
(Bertolt Brecht, To Those Born Later)
 Miller Henry, 1963, Black Spring, Grove Press, New York, p.26
 Brecht, Bertolt, 2006, Poetry and Prose, The Continuum International Publishing Group