Saturday, August 12, 2006

The End? or the Beginning?

A few readers of S.P. have asked, after recent entries, whether I am announcing here--in cowardly fashion--the end of my writing career.
All I can say to that is, "Career? What career?" A writer might career, in the sense of weaving around in blundering, drunken fashion from one mishap to another, but personally I've never thought of writing as a job, with definable steps from initial obscurity through first visibility through consolidation of one's reputation up to final fame and fortune. It's just what I do when I've got nothing else to do. I like it when people respond to what I've written, but I have no overweening desire to be regarded as a literary lion by a cadre of influential poets and editors. It's not likely to happen anyway, but my ego just doesn't need that. I like it much better when a pretty woman smiles at me. ("SHALLOW!" I can hear my friend shout mockingly.)

Poet is man, and this poetman's life has changed considerably in the last year. I have seen a four-year relationship with a woman I once loved slowly suffocate. And one of my friends has died suddenly from cancer she didn't even know she had. In the wake of those tragedies nothing seems the same.
Maureen worried all her life. She worried that she wasn't good enough at her job (she was). She worried about being unworthy of other people's love (she was worthy). She waited for everybody (except L.) to hurt her because they always had. She was even convinced that she didn't manage her household as well as everybody else because it was always in a mess. Shame she never came here. And on the penultimate day of her life she worked a 12-hour-shift and left torn to ribbons because she felt nothing had gone right and everybody was getting at her. Which knowing the crowd she worked with, they probably were.
You have to put down your anguish-- TODAY if possible, because you may not have a tomorrow. That is the lesson Maureen's death has left me with. Stop doing the things that cause you unhappiness. Try to forgive the people who hurt you in the past so that the wounds they made can heal. Try to forgive God for letting it happen: there is no greater pain and loneliness than turning your face away from He whom you believe in your DNA, whatever clever accretions may have been laid over it by Time and education, created you. Find a way to believe again that good things can happen. That the Universe is an hospitable home for a poor suffering human who only wants somebody to hold their hand.
To use a marvellous phrase by Allen Ginsberg, you have to unravel your mysteries before it's too late.
And that's all I'm trying to do now, really. It's nothing big; it's nothing important--the sound of eggs frying on the stove or a car rolling by outside is just as significant as the sound my fingers are making pumping these profundities into the keyboard. In fact, they all mean exactly the same thing: life being lived, that Universe I was talking about talking to itself and taking pleasure in the expressions of its energy.
I will write when I feel like it, and some of it will be poetry. Some of it won't. What happens to the words once I've put them down is something I don't really care about, unless what happens is that somebody finds some truth or delight in them, which seems unlikely. I certainly don't want to build any empires out of my scatological outpourings. I'm too busy trying to save my ass before Death claims it to worry about that.

4 comments:

Janey... said...

...reminds me of the reception Bruce[Springsteen] received with the release of The Rising, then even more so with Devils and Dust, and now his latest Seeger Sessions endeavor interestingly enough has become the deciding factor in their packing up their albums and heading down the road...Seems their argument is that he has lost his writing ability-a terminal writer's block, that he is at this point an egomaniac and only looking to make a buck...and that somehow its a personal insult to them that he's not cranking out more Thunder Roads and Rosalitas with the E Street Band...that he's wasting THEIR time...

Sadly, much like many people just in life...they are missing the larger picture...the picture that Bruce is no longer the person he was back in the days of Darkness...that his writing(and more so his performing) although has become financially lucrative, is a necessity for his own reflection and hence growth...His writing reflects life...it reflects how he has conquered some of his own demons...it focuses on the future and new changes that bring with it, challenges...Without that, comes stagnation...and with stagnation he may as well move from arenas and head for Las Vegas lounges...

What he's doing now with the Seeger Sessions Band is the catalyst for an enormous creative burst of energy...it's obvious on stage...and this is clearly the happiest and most comfortable he's been probably ever...That growth comes from stepping outside of the box...by pushing past the comfort zone...it's an important step in the entire story...it's just as, if not more important than his days of Born to Run...

Ultimately we as listeners will benefit from the cumulative experience...

How's it feel stepping outside the cave...and smelling an air that's different...and tasting something you've never tasted before...How refreshing is it to hear the rush of cascading falls...How is it?

Bruce Hodder said...

I'm immensely flattered by the comparison you make with the other Bruce! But you're right. You have to follow your instincts, do what you feel, not what you think you should, and what I feel right now is that getting my mind in shape (and body actually, since I'm exercising a great deal too),is more important than sweating over yet another poem in the Kerouac mode, or whoever might be interesting me today.
I know of one writer who thinks I'm making a false distinction when I say writing can't make me happy, but my connections with other people can at least show me the way to happiness...but that's the way it has always been for me. For some reason writing, particularly the poetry, was an expression (or an extension), of my withdrawal from humanity, from engagement with the world; and I withdrew from comprehensive engagement with other people because I was hurt by teenage experiences, not for any philosophical reasons. I was hurt and I turned that into a snobbish belief that I was better than everybody else. That they were hopeless robot drones living unfeeling mechanical lives while I was some kind of spectacular free soul who couldn't be conned or caught by all the traps that lay in wait for them. A free soul who, in truth, was scared and lonely and spent most of his time hiding away from life.
Water under the bridge now, of course. Life moves on, and the skinny heavily-bearded youth shouting curses at humanity is now a grey-haired clean-shaven old goat with a weight problem looking to put all the lies and the bullshit behind him and learn how to smile and mean it before it's too late. No empires, no fabulous abstractions, no snobbery left after all my defeats...just a rising faith in the curative powers of love and forgiveness.
How's the air smell? How does the rush of cascading falls sound? Fucking fabulous, if you'll pardon the rather salty language. I just hope I can stay focussed on my new mission and find my way to the water.

As for these people who think Springsteen is only doing the Seeger material for the money, well--they don't know Bruce very well. The only time I think he ever consciously went for the money was when he let Landau persuade him "Born in the USA" needed a hit single to finish it off and he added "Dancing in the Dark" (sorry, the video of that still gives me nightmares!). Springsteen is obviously looking for creative renewal with the Seeger material. It's an act of humility, going back to somebody he feels might be able to articulate the mood of the times better than him. My other great hero Dylan did the same thing when he was trying to come out of a creative slump that had lasted nearly a decade: he recorded two albums of folk standards (both excellent albums, if you haven't heard them), and after that he was sufficiently recharged to create "Time Out Of Mind", which won a Grammy. As you have said, Springsteen's next project will be massive and inspired and then everybody will realise what he was doing. Unless the self-righteous bastards just congratulate him for returning to the true path...

Janey... said...

"...But it's a sad man my friend who's livin' in his own skin
And can't stand the company
Every fool's got a reason to feelin' sorry for himself
And turn his heart to stone
Tonight this fool's halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell
And I feel like I'm comin' home"
-These Are Better Days-(The Other Bruce)

The Born in the USA/Dancing in the Dark days sent Bruce to years of therapy...Many of the naysayers of now were those once obnoxious beer spilling, fist pumping frat boys that sang BitUSA at the top of their lungs as their anthem...just as shallowly as Ronald Reagan did...Nonetheless, that period of time pushed him to figure out what really mattered...

You will find the waters edge...no doubt...To hear your footing become more self assured mirrors where I left within the last two years...At the turning point of my self inflicted misery...I told a friend, "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired..." That...essentially summed up the dark cyclical world I had found my way into...and I was sick and tired of it...

I really think that funk we find ourselves in, is in part a normal developmental stage of the 40 something age...we re-evaluate where we are and sometimes it's alarming where we find ourselves...

Forge forth...These are better days...

Bruce Hodder said...

Isn't it interesting that this 40-something phenomenon hits more people than it misses? And I think that's what it is, though the end of my relationship and the death of my friend triggered it.The same events at a different time would have had no impact, or at least no comparable impact. Yeah, better days. I believe that implicitly (and I love that song).

The days when Springsteen was misunderstood as an icon of American jingoism were really strange, weren't they? He wasn't as strident about his politics then as he is now, but he didn't exactly hide his liberalism either.
(If liberalism really defines his politics.)Artists are always victims of their audience's preconceptions about them: look how Dylan's record sales dropped when he became Born Again (or whatever happened there). He was supposed to go on rewriting "Blowin' In The Wind" forever.

One thing I love about the Seeger material is that it has enabled Bruce to loosen up and find his joy again. I'm a massive fan of his first two albums, and Bruce himself has likened the freedom of the Seeger sound to those wild, weird early records. (Can anyone listen to "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" and not feel wonderful?) It'll be interesting to see if that yea-saying vibe translates to the new material.