‘When I have fears that I may cease to be’. Keats. The mind is its own territory. In it, while we're alive, we move and landscape our existence. My sources of stimulation are now of necessity limited. The flow of nutrients has to be cultivated, otherwise nostalgia and old anecdote rampage like ragwort across the scene.
Where do I go from here?
In the computer I hold a ragbag of jottings as possible blogs. This paragraph has lurked there for some time. Maybe the metaphor’s impossible? Maybe I lack the skills to cope with it? Maybe it’s the right idea in the wrong time? Or is that vice versa? Maybe the whole concept is old hat? Maybe the thought’s a waste of time? Anyway, as an idea it keeps going nowhere.
Fortunate are those who can work at what their mind is inclined to do. For most adults in our society mental skills are for hire. That is why we admire the young – the shades of the workplace are not full-blown.
At the moment there is a fuss over the length of a school-girl’s dress. Ever since I started teaching this issue has waxed and waned. It’s partly an age-old issue – the growing one bucking the system. As she grows older she’ll either accept the rules (most do) or become a rebel and a drop-out. It's an age-old conflict.
Following the career of Katherine Mansfield I see that tension. She’s on the verge of the ‘Blooms Berries’ set. She’ll never make full acceptance. The British class system is not resilient.
Writers seek freedom to do their own thing. But they need some sort of security. Precariously scratching a subsistence existence may be the stuff of Hollywood dreams. But it's pretty rugged and assumes good health and energy. Economic independence is a bonus.
And there’s enough of a puritan in me to say discipline is needed.
I realise I’m chasing a growl at myself. Lately, I’ve been mooning mentally around. For several months I’ve hardly written a poem. It’s time to get cracking. It’s time not just to meander haphazardly around that mental terrain but to seek some structures and create some forms that give verbal shape to those vague longings. I think reading about Mansfield is shaping this sense. Gardens just do not happen. Meals have to be prepared. Poems need to be written.
The 2018 Book Council Lecture
2 days ago