It’s not that long since Imbolc, a time for reviewing both aspirations for the year and broken promises – not just this year’s resolutions but all the things I was going to do last year and somehow didn’t get round to. All the writing I was going to do. I promised several friends I would review their books on this blog or on Amazon, and I promised myself I’d review some more. I did write a few reviews and people were pleased with them, but that was quite early in the year. Perhaps I’ll just name some of the poetry collections I promised to review: A Sprig of Rowan by Rebecca Gethin, Voices in the Garden by Julie-ann Rowell, Marietta’s Wardrobe by Hazel Hammond and, from way back, Other Blackbirds by Alex Josephy. I’d like to apologise to all those people for not having done so. I know how valuable and affirming it is to be publicised in this way, and I’m enormously grateful to Rebecca Gethin, an indefatigably generous reviewer of other people’s work, for including a review of my collection on her blog – my only review to date.
I’ve also wanted to write about several prose books by friends: Hospital High, a novel for young adults by Mimi Thebo, In Search of Grace, an account of an ecological pilgrimage by Peter Reason and, again from a long while back, The Brilliant History of Color in Art by Victoria Finlay. And I’d intended to write about other collections by people known to me that I’ve been impressed by, including bolt down this earth by Gram Joel Davies, Amazon by Catherine Ayres, nothing more to it than bubbles by Jane Burn, The Book of Tides by Angela Readman and Wild Gooseberries of Hailung by Frances Corkey Thompson. For the moment all I’m doing is mentioning these titles, but I know all of them deserve more than that.
And I had plans to set up a website, and in fact started doing so. A proper website that would showcase my work and tell the world that here I am, a poet and writer, who has published a book and self-published another one, and who writes real writing. Only I haven’t been writing so have wanted to keep quiet about myself, and when I’m not writing I tend to stop believing in my work and start to feel like a fraud for thinking it’s good enough to promote. Not that the desire to put my work out into the world has completely gone away. I’ve started entering competitions again and am even submitting work to one or two magaines, trying not to anticipate either acceptance or rejection. And I’m reading at a poetry event next week and haven’t taken myself off the list for that…
All of the above could be an excuse for a good old mea culpa session: I haven’t written, I can’t really write anyway, I’ve procrastinated and distracted myself and haven’t been getting down to it, so I don’t deserve to do it. As I said in my previous post, I’ve been there, done that all too often. It’s easy to get into the same frame of mind with meditation practice: I haven’t been sitting, which proves that I don’t really care about it, so how can I possibly start again etc etc. But both writing and meditation are infinitely forgiving: if you didn’t do it earlier on, you can always do it now. No need to make a fuss about it; just pick yourself up, take hold of the pen, open up the document, or sit on your cushion or chair. You don’t have to make yourself good enough to meditate – some Buddhist teachings suggest starting by remember all the good things you’ve done, however small they seem – and you don’t have to make yourself good enough to write. In both cases you just have to do it, and in both cases the less you try to show what you think is your acceptable face, the more worthwhile it will be. For me, both writing and meditating are about making a commitment to what feels deeper and more real than endless busyness and distraction. I hesitate to use a big word like authenticity, but I think most people can sense when it’s there, to whatever degree, in writing or in the way someone speaks about their experience.
For Christmas a dear friend of mine gave me a beautiful journal with a dragon on the cover – I’ve had an affinity with dragons for a long time. And when my collection was published my lovely writing group gave me not one but two very swish notebooks – writing, for purposes of. So even supposing I didn’t have a computer or any paper in the house (as if!) I’d have no excuse. Next weekend I’ll be on a residential course with Greta Stoddart, whose monthly seminars I go to, and in April I’m venturing up to Iona for a week’s course with Roselle Angwin. I’m looking now to find ways of cutting down on work again and making more space for writing. In the last post I said a resurgence might be coming. Now what I have to do is (to mix metaphors somewhat) prepare a clear patch of ground for it to take root.