Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Poem, O Swami Shivananda, A Poem!

I wrote a poem this morning. That might not be startling news, or even interesting news, but to me it's quite significant. I haven't been able to write poetry consistently - or well - for a long time now, and once I was pretty good at it. Got published as often as I was given the bum's rush by the little magazines I submitted to. Even made it into two proper books.

And then life got in the way. Too many rejections all at once knocked my confidence (never as deeply embedded as it appears). I was working long hours in a job I hated too, and the worse my situation got there, the more it drained the vitality out of me. I lost the ability to imagine, to conceive of new worlds, which is what a poet has to do, I think, to write interesting stuff. Not that you have to write about interplanetary travel or anything. But if you can't abstract yourself from everyday experience and play mental games with your role in the world - if you can't see yourself, as crazy as it sounds, as heroic in some way (everybody should, incidentally) - you won't write anything worth a short sit in the benjo.

I've had the illness too, to acclimatise to. But I think I've done that. And I'm not working at the job I hated now either, having quit last February in a violent huff. I'm at University doing an English degree, as anybody who has read more than a few posts here will know. So now the only thing I have that I could justifiably use as an excuse for not writing is the workload of the degree. And that is considerable, at least it is for a competitive bastard like me who wants to get good grades on assignments whether they interest me or not just to prove to anybody watching that I can.

We're finally getting into some of the writers I like now too, on the course, after spending months wading through staggeringly average poets and dull Victorian novelists. This week we have to look at Blake and cummings. Next week it's John Steinbeck; then Langston Hughes and Allen Ginsberg. I've read all of these people to death, but it won't hurt to be sitting in rooms reading their poetry with other people.

My main inspiration still comes from the Underground, though: all the people I publish in BEATNIK; Ron Whitehead; Wild Bill Blackolive etc. etc. That's where real writing happens. That's where to go if you want to know how to practice this craft with true style and innovation and elan instead of just serving the prejudices of safe middle-aged people who don't want anything in literature or life to change.

And I'm determined to get back the poet I was not so long ago. Writing is the only thing I ever wanted to do.


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