Monday, March 23, 2009

What of & What about...

What do you write about? What is it that you want to write about? It's a question I ask, particularly of poets. I'm not so much interested in the subject but of the compulsion. Have you, of all these billions of people on planet Earth, got something to say, and, as importantly, a way of saying it? I'm envious of musicians, after all, a few chords can make the tritest lyrics sound meaningful, and its that transmission - from the creator to the listener (or the reader, or the looker)- which is, ultimately what's important. Yet communicating in a common language, a shared language, seems to put an even greater on what it is you write about. Have you a hook? An idea? Have you a story - in the sense that the "news values" of the day make into a story. "Boy runs away from school, police are concerned" may be a story, but it doesn't do justice to "Catcher in the Rye." Yet many stories have a news value - explicitly so in something like "The Secret Agent" where the "news" of the day is intertwined with the story. Poems, of course, often have their own news values, relating to a different currency :- for instance the death of an obscure poet may not be "news", but it could well be to those who knew him or her and may not only lead to an "elegy", but a reappraisal.

There's the story all around us, of course, and digging for it, is part of the fun(k) we get ourselves in. I wrote an album and a half worth of songs the last year or so and I'm definitely at the bottom of that particular well in terms of lyrics. Songs, like poems, need to have some resonance with the writer of them, otherwise they're just "there", not "lived" at all. In my case I think its a little bit of intellectual frostiness - I need some thawing, a Spring clean of the brain. I've had a week to do that to the flat, and, to a lesser extent, myself; but feeling more energised, more relaxed is one thing - the intellectual Springcleaning is more the opposite - not reorganising or throwing out the baggage, but revitalising: more renovation than restoration I think.

So, I have lots of things frothing away, but do I want to say them? Do I know how to say them? Music, in many ways, offers "the way", quite easily. There are very few Bob Dylans out there, whose musical template rarely shifts, and then mostly to let in a slightly different approach to the words. The musical ideas themselves can suggest a way forward, the lyrics, only of secondary importance sometimes. Yet, I feel there needs to be something conceptual, or at least intellectually stimulating about all jousts at artist targets. Being good enough isn't enough if the ambition is of a low level... though sometimes we fool ourselves, a "good poem" should be ambition enough, even if it could take us ten years to have enough for a collection.

I've squandered this week, artistically, you could say, by not getting down to doing something - or even, to thinking about the one thing I should be doing. I'm not so sure. There's some contradictory subjects battling away for me attention. There's also a problem particular to me, I think. I've written so much already. I risk running over ground I've already travelled over, and I'm not quite that kind of writer. Retreading old fictional ground seems an admittance of some kind of failure, of the original pieces, or of the inability of art to move the problem on. Creative writing can only reveal not solve.

Yet, starting to think of putting some older stories online, its not because I believe there's particularly an audience for them (or for online in general), more that its an important reminder to myself of ground travelled, destinations visited, creative challenges met.

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