On Being a Poet

Some while ago I wrote two posts, the first called On Not Being a Poet and the second On Not Not Being a Poet. Logically the follow-on would be On Being A Poet, and it says something about where I am now that I am at last prepared to write it. The first two were very much about whether or not I felt like a poet and whether I was entitled to call myself one. This is about being a poet ‘out there': somebody who ‘does’ poetry and can be seen to be doing it.

Since I joined the wonderful 52 in May last year I’ve had more than 20 poems published in magazines and anthologies and have been shortlisted in a pamphlet competition and longlisted in a single poem competition. Not bad going for someone who prior to that had only had two or three poems published ever. Once I’d got six published poems I was able to make a submission to a poetry publisher, and I’ve been invited to submit a manuscript of 50 poems for consideration in March next year. No guarantee of publication, but the publisher is a reputable one and I’m delighted to have got that far. I’ve now amassed enough of a body of work to make publishing a pamphlet or even a full collection possible. All those things are poetry credentials, the sort that real poets have, even if I haven’t yet got that many of them.

But it’s not only about the work itself. Since this time last year I’ve been going round being a poet. I go to workshops with other local poets, I read at magazine launches and open mics, I turn up at festivals and poetry discussions, I spend time hanging out with poets. Down here in South Devon there’s a very active poetry scene and a tribe of poets who all seem to know one another. Some are more published and better-known than others, but none of them seem to have any trouble accepting me as one of them. When I said to someone that until recently I’d been scared of talking to poets because they seemed to me such special beings, his immediate reaction was, ‘But you’re a poet.’ Just like that. Somehow or other – and I’m still not sure how – I’ve got the equivalent of the old Equity card and in the eyes of the world have been admitted into the ranks.

So what’s it like, this being a poet? Rather nice, I have to say. As I remarked to a friend the other day, since I became a poet my social life has expanded dramatically. Poets are forever getting together for readings of their own and other people’s work, for many poets workshops are a sine qua non, and there’s nothing poets like better than sitting round with other poets and talking about poetry. By contrast, the novelist seems a much more solitary animal. After spending hours at the computer or with the written page, a novelist won’t necessarily rush off to a reading of other people’s fiction or get together with a whole lot of other novelists to talk shop.

I’m very fortunate to be part of a regular group of novelists and prose writers (I still harbour dreams of writing fiction as well) who meet regularly to share work and support each other in their writing lives – but that doesn’t seem to be the norm. For company, and perhaps by choice, novelists may have to make do with the characters they have created. And perhaps that’s a difference: however intense and arduous the experience of writing a poem may be, it doesn’t go on for weeks, months, years in the way that a novel does. You write a poem, you finish it or put it aside for later, and then you move on to another one. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a bigger and more continuous process involved in writing a series of poems or putting together a collection –  but it isn’t a continuous piece of fabrication in quite the same way.

I’ve no idea whether what I’ve said about poets and novelists does anything to explain the difference between them, but it does say something about my experience of being a novelist (to the extent that I am one) and being a poet. I love writing poems and I also love writing fiction: having the chance to immerse myself in the world of a novel and live with the people and places in it over time. And I love both my poet friends and my prose writer friends, and feel extraordinarily grateful that I can be part of two such creative and welcoming communities.


 

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Transport of Delight

1959 Routemaster - from the London Bus Museum

1959 Routemaster – from the London Bus Museum

Back in the 1950s, comedy duo Flanders and Swann wrote a song called Transport of Delight, a cynical but affectionate tribute to the London bus. In those days people took public transport for granted. A lot of people didn’t have cars – my family didn’t, though we weren’t too badly off – and if you wanted to go anywhere you thought about taking the train or the bus. Before Dr Beeching came along in the 1960s there were trains practically everywhere, and even small villages had some sort of bus service. The railways were nationalised, and in the 1960s buses were too. Public  was a public service: fares weren’t so exorbitant that you had to think seriously about them and buses were frequent. The lack of a car didn’t restrict people’s lives to the extent it may do now.

In London and big cities, of course, there isn’t a shortage of public transport. Passengers (I refuse to say customers) are plentiful enough to make the service economic (or economical, as we used to say when economic meant something else). In London at least there are enough people around late at night and early in the morning to make all-night buses a common sight. But what if you live in a small town or village, in an area that’s predominantly rural? Well, the answer is probably hard luck.

On Sunday I wanted to get from Ashburton, where I live, to Dartington Hall – a distance of some seven miles which would have taken about twenty minutes by car, had I been able to use the car. I was going to the Ways with Words literary festival and planned on staying till the evening. I knew I’d have to ask someone for a lift home, as even on a weekday there are no buses after about 6pm, but I thought that at least I’d be able to get there independently. I did, but because there are no buses on a Sunday from Ashburton to Totnes (the nearest town to Dartington) and no local buses from Totnes up to the Hall, I had to catch one of the few buses going in the opposite direction to Newton Abbot, then a train from Newton Abbot to Totnes, and then walk up from Totnes to Dartington Hall. The bus journey took about a quarter of an hour. There was then a ten-minute walk from the bus station to the railway station, where fortunately I caught a train almost straight away, followed by a ten-minute train ride. The walk up to Dartington was very pleasant and not that long, but by the time I got there I felt I’d been on a bit of a journey. When I lived in London all that changing about would have been nothing out of the ordinary, but at least I would been able to rely on there being a service  – all things being equal, which of course they often aren’t.

The point I’m making is not that journeys on public transport tend to be more complicated than journeys by car, but that because of the scarcity of public transport getting from A to B can be enormously difficult. There are plenty of villages round here where there is no bus service at all, or the buses are so few and far between that to get to your destination, do what you need to do and be ready to catch the last bus back is well-nigh impossible. I know quite a few people who don’t have cars, and they are dependent on the willingness of friends to take them where they need to go. In these hard times not everyone can afford to run a car – and, let’s face it, by no means everyone can afford bus fares – so once again people who are poor or elderly or disabled are the ones who are penalised. Running buses on rural routes may not be ‘commercial,’ but unless you believe that profit is the sole good in life surely you must take people’s needs into account.

I notice that a lot of the people round here who use the buses are, like me, entitled to a free bus pass. The fact that fares are expensive, plus the relative inconvenience, means that by and large people prefer to travel by car if they can: covering long distances in ones and twos, burning fossil fuel and polluting the countryside. I know I do. However, if buses were more frequent and fares were cheaper, more people would travel by bus and the service could well become more ‘economic’. But that, of course, would take government support, which we certainly aren’t going to get from this government. So it goes on, with the divide between those who can participate fully in society and the disenfranchised becoming ever wider.

Which brings us back to the dear old London bus. How I used to hate waiting for them when I lived in London, how I loathed the noise and the dirt and the overcrowding, and how I long for them now, and sometimes even crave the convenience of the Tube. At least London has a transport system. Rural areas can count their blessings if they have transport at all.

LT1 - the latest London bus - from the London Bus Museum

LT1 – the latest London bus – from the London Bus Museum

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Here Be Dragons

I don’t know if anyone has ever told you, but in case you didn’t know – dragons are real. As in: they exist. OK, you may not be able to see them in quite the same way that you’ve seen a fox or a rabbit, but they’re there all right, living in what psychoanalyst D W Winnicott called transitional space – that space between the inner and outer worlds where art and magic and imagination live. And that of course is their function. They are intermediaries between worlds, creatures of birth and death, and they appear to us at significant times in our lives. Dragons inhabit each of the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – and they inhabit us, if we let them.

"Dragon" by Angelus (talk) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dragon.svg#/media/File:Dragon.svg

“Dragon” by Angelus (talk) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dragon.svg#/media/File:Dragon.svg

I’ve been acquainted with dragons for a long time and written several dragon stories. Here are some of the things you should know about them:

  • Dragons will only reveal themselves when the time is right. You may search and search but you will never find your dragons until they, not you, are ready.
  • Dragons are to be respected for the power that resides within them. It is a power of healing and destruction, death and life.
  • You must approach a dragon with awe but not fear. If you are afraid of it, you will not find it even if it consumes you with its flame.
  • Dragons are inconceivably ancient and carry secrets as old as time. And in each moment they make themselves new, beyond your imagining.
  • The treasure that dragons guard is so precious that you are afraid to find it. They will not give it up to you unless you can prove you are its rightful owner.
  • Some dragons have lain hidden deep in the earth for thousands of ages. You can only discover their power by entering the dark cave where you are not.
  • Some dragons live in the depths of the ocean.You must plunge deep to find them and not fear drowning. When they rise to the surface, you will know that their fire has not been quenched.
  • There are some dragons whose element is the air.They fly high above the world, seeing everything. If you meet one, you must soar with it wherever it takes you or lose the vision that you have.
  • Above all the element of dragons is fire. When you meet it, you must be prepared to die from its light and heat. Otherwise you will never know what it is to be fully alive.
  • The language of dragons speaks their ancient power. Dragon speech spurts out in tongues of flame, scorching and purifying all it finds
  • You cannot expect to escape the dragons and you cannot expect to meet them.   When you meet one, you will always have known it and will never have seen anything like it.

chinese-dragon-clip-art-19These days, of course, it’s hard to think of dragons without thinking of Harry Potter. There are some rather splendid – and frightening – dragons in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but they’re not really given a chance to be everything that dragons can be. The most important thing about a dragon is that when you meet it, either it destroys you or else you become it and take on something of its power. If you do, you will find your secret wings and claws and learn to breathe out flame. Becoming a dragon is not necessarily an easy process, though. This is what it may be like:

Transformation
Its talons clutch at my guts, folded wing-points pinion my diaphragm, arrow-head tail flails my entrails, razor-toothed jaw jams into my throat. Its hunger leaves me no room for food. Its breath scorches into my lungs, its heat broils and roils in all my body’s passages. Already I hardly know air from fire. My insides melt, are smelted into scales; my skin is sucked within their emerging armour; my joints are turned inside-out in clawed limbs. Wings unfurling thrust through my shoulder blades, shudder open with a thunder-rush that frightens the sky. My lengthening neck twists and gyrates in its armour plates until my head blazes free. Opening my mouth to its embered depths I fling out my first roar of flame.

I wrote the piece above for the prose poem prompt from the online poetry group 52. I’m not sure whether it’s poetry of any sort, but it’s certainly dragon – a dragon you wouldn’t mess with. And there’s no question that it’s fire and heat.

In the late 1990s I put together a collection of writings (not published or publishable) called Meeting the Dragon. It started as a project for a personal development course and though it contained many other strands of writing, pieces about finding, meeting and becoming the dragon were the thread that held it together. After that I stopped writing about dragons, though they never quite went away. Just recently they’ve been around again. When I told my writing group about the dragon book, they suggested I write another dragon story – mainly as a way of getting back my confidence in writing fiction. I immediately said yes. I have a sense that dragons are moving again in my life, I’m not sure how or when. I haven’t flown or scorched anyone yet, but you’d better be careful…

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Without a shell

Not long ago I had an accident in my car. I’d had a few minor collisions before, my fault or someone else’s, but this was worse. I was driving faster than usual down a narrow lane, and didn’t see the other car coming round a blind corner towards me until it was too late. I braked, but still slammed into the by now stationary bumper of a very nice new-looking Mini. The other driver – who turned out to be a lorry-driving instructor – was understandably furious and told me in no uncertain terms what I’d been doing wrong. Fortunately neither of us was hurt, though the fronts of both cars were damaged by the impact. (When I lived in London, there was a local driving school that called itself the Impact School of Motoring and presumably ran crash courses.)

Once we were off the main track and trying to sort things out with our respective insurance companies, I felt myself wanting to collapse into a wobbly, tearful state compounded of shock, relief that things weren’t worse, recognising how much worse they could have been, and a large dose of shame. The other driver soon got over his anger and was as helpful as he could be, but his kindness made it all the harder not to dissolve in a puddle of unhelpful tears – which I didn’t do. In fact I kept pretty calm, all things considered, and didn’t collapse until I’d got the poor injured car home (fortunately not far away) and finished dealing with the insurers. Questions like ‘Was there CCTV?’ (concealed in the hedgerow, I assume) and ‘Which side was the other driver on?’ (in a lane just wide enough for one car) left me teetering on the edge of hysteria. At least I could phone a good friend afterwards and get, in lieu of an in-person hug, a comforting virtual one. (I got some real ones later too.)

Since then I’ve been both surprised and not surprised at how vulnerable and shaken up I’ve felt. Various other mishaps – which I won’t go into here – haven’t made things easier, but I still find myself buying into the assumption that if the accident has been fairly minor and I haven’t been hurt, I should be able to get over it pretty quickly. At the same time I know perfectly well that any sort of traumatic incident in the present, even a relatively minor one, leaves a residue and also taps into the reservoir of previous trauma that most of us have inside us. By trauma I don’t necessarily mean anything as horrific as violence or abuse or even a serious accident, but circumstances that, whether we consciously remember them or not, have in some way left an imprint of unresolved shock. (For more on this and the way trauma remains in the body see, among other good sources, In An Unspoken Voice by Peter Levine.)

But feeling more vulnerable isn’t all negative. I’ve been more open to the beauty of the landscape, the wild flowers that grow in the hedgerows and beside the little river that runs through the town, the plants in my garden; more touched by friends’ care and kindness; more aware of what’s been going on inside me. The other day I pictured the car as a hard shell that had been covering me but had now cracked and fallen off, leaving me rather like a hermit crab without its borrowed casing. It felt like a relief, as though I was allowed to be myself more directly and openly, even if that self seemed in some ways less grown-up and was less carefully held together. Perhaps many of us secretly long to return to the spontaneity we knew as small children, when pain and delight were equally immediate and there was no barrier between us and the world, so that in each moment we were not separate from the colour of a poppy or the taste of an ice cream.

The Buddha teaches that the sense of a separate (and essentially self-protective) self that most of us carry around with us is illusory. He didn’t say there is no self, since clearly for everyday purposes it exists and gets us through, but if we begin to deconstruct our experiences what we find is that none of them is actually ‘myself”: it isn’t owned by me,  it’s simply lived experience. Discovering this, even for tiny moments while on retreat or in contact with the natural world, is extraordinarily freeing. We realise again that the shell isn’t necessary and in fact holds us back from connection with all things and all beings. And that connection has the quality of love, so that in those moments something as mundane as the moss growing in the cracks of a stone wall can seem infinitely beautiful and precious. But dropping the sense of self in those moments, even partially, can also be frightening. The familiar sense of who I am, what I’m like, how I respond to things, is no longer there as a set of railings to hold on to, and the fear is that without it I might die – though without its restriction I become more fully alive.

It seems to me that the best writing, whether poetry or prose, comes from this experience of immediate and unselfconscious contact with the world. The writing may not be a spontaneous outpouring: it may be worked and crafted and may contain reflection after the event, but if it doesn’t spring from that essential truth then it is in some sense lacking. The truth of the moment may be an ‘inner’ truth – a depth and clarity of emotion – as well as an ‘outer’ truth, and in fact may probably be both, since the dichotomy between ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ is ultimately a false one. If my feelings and emotions aren’t essentially ‘mine’, then they are simply part of the totality that makes up this given moment and can be perceived with the same clear-sightedness and compassion as everything else. If only I were able to write in that way…

My car is still sitting outside my house, waiting to be taken away for repair. That was going to be done today but has now been postponed until Tuesday, three weeks after the accident. I’ve had time to get over some of the shock and re-assess what happened: how over-confidence and thinking about ‘me’ lessened my concentration on the road in front of me and led to misjudgement. I’ve also had time to enjoy walking and taking the bus, noticing what’s around me in a way that I can’t when I’m driving. And I’ve had to forgo things that I might otherwise have attended, like a choir rehearsal and a poetry performance, because down here in rural Devon public transport is less than adequate and I can’t always rely on lifts from other people. So sooner or later I will start driving again, hoping the accident has been a salutary experience.

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What’s wrong with spring?

I’m sitting at my kitchen table looking out, through the apple blossom and the pergola that I keep thinking I’ll move because it gets in the way of the view, at the mist. That’s all I can see beyond the fence this evening. On a clear day there are green hills, and Dartmoor in the distance. I haven’t written a post here since February and have been feeling the urge, though I’m not sure what I’m going to say. (Perhaps it might be better not to say that, a little voice says.)

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May Day has already gone. Memories of May morning in Oxford: the inaudible anthem sung  at 5am from Magdalen tower (these days they amplify it), bathing (well, wiping) my face with dew from the college lawn, Morris men with bells jingling and concertinas squeezing for all they’re worth. Down here people are quite keen on Beltane, the Celtic festival, though I haven’t heard of any bonfires being lit and in any case today has been seriously wet. In Totnes some sort of ceremony is taking place tomorrow at the Leechwell (reputedly a healing spring). The violets and primroses are still in flower but near the end, and the bluebells are coming into their own. Wild garlic is everywhere, the little white spiky flowers just beginning to open.

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Not long ago I ran a workshop which brought together Focusing and writing. (If you want to know more about Focusing, try Focusing Resources.) I was looking for a theme for a piece of writing and didn’t want to ignore the spring, but it has been done before… What I came up with was ‘What’s wrong with spring?’ It sparked off some interesting poems, exploring the theme either personally or globally and ecologically. For me there was something about spring coming too soon, while I was still wrapped in winter; perhaps the seasons – such as they are – often surprise me like that. The snowdrops out already, then the daffodils, the fritillaries, the tulips, and now the cherry blossom half over and already dropping petals.

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It isn’t only the flowers. The poetry group 52 is almost over and the last prompt has been posted. I joined an online poem a day group halfway through April and that’s over too. I didn’t join 52 till May last year and in recent weeks I’ve fallen woefully behind. I’ve been ‘lurking’, in group parlance, more than I’ve been posting my own work or commenting on other people’s.I didn’t manage a poem a day on the other group either, though I’ve written some. My latest effort was about losing a bar of chocolate – which I did – but I can’t say it was one of my best. 52 was only meant to have lasted for a year (hence the title – a prompt a week) but it was so hugely successful that its life was extended. Some people have continued to write numerous poems a week, as I did for a while, and many have done well in competitions and/or had work published in prestigious magazines.

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This time last year I was just beginning to send poems out and get them published. The excitement of it stayed with me as the acceptances mounted up, outweighing the rejections. Then, like all good things, it came to an end. Towards the end of my round of submissions I had more rejections from magazines. Since then I’ve hardly sent out any more poems, though I have entered some single poem competitions and got as far as a longlist with one. I also keep entering pamphlet competitions, even though the standard is fearsomely high. On the novel front, I’ve been revising the novel I sent out before (once again with valuable input from my group) but haven’t finished it yet. The second one I started has been on hold for a long time but I hope I may go back to it.

I said to my group a little while ago that I seemed to be in the doldrums: not necessarily depressed – though I confess to feeling less chipper than I was – but becalmed and not entirely sure which way the wind will blow next. I keep saying I’m going to do another round of submissions but somehow it hasn’t happened yet. (It will, I tell myself every time I see that other members of 52 are getting work into magazines.) And I’m still not giving up on the novel and may look more seriously into other ways of getting it published, though self-publishing is not easy. A friend of mine who reads many self-published books has said that almost all of them would have been vastly better if they’d had the benefit of a proper editor. Other members of my writing group have had or are having their work published by reputable publishers, but I can safely say their books are exceptional.

Nevertheless I’m still hanging in there. I get discouraged and de-motivated for a while, I think other people’s work is far better than mine (which of course sometimes it is), but sooner or later I’m back in there and having another go. Somehow I don’t give up – at least not for good. If it’s worth doing… it’s worth doing.

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So where do we go from here?

I wrote the title of this post some time ago, meaning to come back to it, and now can’t quite remember what it was I was going to write about. Something, I think, about a different kind of blog post, or maybe a different kind of writing…

The question remains, though. At the start of the year, not long after my birthday, having put behind me – or thought I was putting behind me – the pain and difficulty of the last year, I found myself looking at the shape of this year. Already it’s been different: this time last year I was doped up on painkillers and hardly able to go out because of the excruciating pain in my back. This year getting out and about hasn’t been a problem: I’ve been to Dartington gardens, to the sea and up on the moor, as well as on a writing retreat in rural Gloucestershire. I’m not as miserable as I was then, either, and seem to be getting things done, writing proper ‘to do’ lists and enjoying crossing things off. I’ve edited a newsletter, entered some poems for competitions and begun to plan workshops that I hope will run – though with workshops there’s never a guarantee that people will book. One of them, on Focusing for writers, will definitely run in April, and will bring together the two spheres of writing and self-exploration – not that they have ever been entirely separate.

It’s strange to think that this time last year I had hardly begun to think of myself as a poet, even though I’d been writing poems, off and on, for many years. I was finishing Roselle Angwin’s Elements of Poetry course and just thinking about trying to get some of my poetry published. I hadn’t yet joined 52, which has been such a life-changing experience. Now, a year on, I’ve had poems published in magazines and a couple of anthologies, been longlisted in a couple of single poem competitions and, even better, shortlisted (in a rather long shortlist) in a pamphlet competition. And a poetry publisher is interested in considering a longer manuscript, though not till next year. In other words, I’ve now got some poetry credentials, which I never imagined myself getting. I can say I’m a poet these days without feeling so squeamish about it.

The writing retreat in Gloucestershire was with my lovely prose writers’ group, who got together at the end of the Bath Spa MA and have been meeting monthly ever since. Several of them are now published writers (two were already), one a best-seller, and their standard is formidably high. I felt inspired to do some more work on the novel that I sent to rather a lot of agents, and have been busy recasting it from first person to third, trying to get more distance from the main character. I don’t find editing and rewriting fiction easy – a poem is much easier to rework – but it feels good to be having another go. I’ve thought of myself as a fiction writer for so many years that it’s hard to give up on it, and I still love making up stories and characters. I’ve got another novel started and left on the back burner, and I may well return to that one soon. Whether my novel-writing will ever appear in print is of course another question, as is whether I could manage to be both a poet and a novelist – seemingly some people can and some can’t.

The wonderful 52 – from which I’ve lapsed rather in the past few weeks – is finishing at the end of April. After that I’m not sure where I’ll be going poetry-wise, though the poetry scene is so active here in the South West that there’ll be no shortage of festivals and workshops. And on the prose front I’m sure my Bath Spa group will continue. I’m very fortunate to feel so much a part of these different communities of writers, the quality of whose work inspires me to do the best I possibly can. This year will undoubtedly be different from last year; the ways in which it’s different still remain to be seen.

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Speaking personally

There seems to be a certain etiquette when it comes to blog posts: you speak personally, but not too personally. So I can happily talk about spilling soup over myself or even about coming out – which by its nature is in the public domain – but I’m more wary of talking about feelings of a personal kind. Not that I don’t, but usually I allude to them sideways, or else Adelina does. So she was happy to tell the world that I was suffering from Unrequited Love, but quite rightly kept the details to herself. I’m not about to spill all the beans now, but it’s possible that in the course of this post just a few may drop. If I weren’t so keen to get my poems published in magazines I’d probably do it by posting some more of those, but at the moment I can’t bear the thought of wasting their fragrance on the desert air (I do like a nice quote).

I’m not completely sure what I want to say right now, but it seems to be something about love: what it is and what it isn’t. I’ve been ‘in love’ several times in my life before, usually unhappily. I can’t help thinking of a poor mistaken bird flying into a glass window and hurting itself, and then doing the same thing again…  It hasn’t always been as destructive as that, but perhaps there has been something of the same refusal to take no for an answer. I want this, the emotional logic goes, so somehow I’ve got to make it happen. And surely the other person must want it really, or at least not not want it. Dangerous ground, I know, and what’s painful is the part of me that at the same time sees and feels the rejection, and knows that what I want is never going to happen. And, for various reasons, in the past it’s never been possible to talk about it properly.

What’s happened now has been different. I’ve still ended up not getting the girl, as it were, but I’ve seen something important: that ‘being in love’ with someone and desperately wanting and needing them (or wanting what I think they can give me, and wanting to foist my notion of love upon them) isn’t the same as being in love – in a wider, less constrained field of love – with that person, so that what matters most isn’t what I get from them but what’s best for both of us, whether that turns out to be ‘a relationship’ or not. Not having the relationship is still terribly sad, of course, and the wanting hasn’t been spirited away, but I seem to have understood, perhaps for the first time, more about what love actually is – which means that although I’ve been sad I haven’t been hurt in the way I’ve been before. I can see what the other person wants and doesn’t want, and perhaps why, and I can respect that with all my heart and with care for myself. And maybe because I’ve been able to come to it in a more open-hearted way – and because of the other person’s honesty and generosity – it has been possible to talk about it, and to speak my love without having it thrown back at me.

It took a long time to get there, though. I ‘fell in love’ initially at the end of the year before last. For the greater part of last year circumstances meant that I didn’t see the person, and I thought I probably never would again. I was faced with the pain of unrequited love at its rawest and most immediate. Many of my poetry friends have seen the poems that resulted, the misery and despair in them but also the wry humour that (thank goodness) never quite deserted me. Then, towards the end of last year, the person and I met again and struck up the beginnings of a friendship where we started to discover how much we had in common. Inevitably, though, I wanted more and, for reasons that were partly understandable, thought that more was being offered. Disappointment followed, but nevertheless I’ve ended up seeing the whole process as something of a blessing. My heart was touched more deeply than it has ever been before, and I feel I can start to let go of whatever it is that has driven me into these blind alleys, without doing away with the genuine love I’ve felt. At the beginning of this new year, nearly at my birthday now, I can see a space of new possibility.

The Sunday before last I went down to the sea. I found a secluded cove, with an interested-looking seal bobbing up from time to time, and offered to the waves all the misery and misguidedness of my past loves, as well as the ending of this one. The tide was coming in and the spray sloshed into my boots, so that I didn’t feel separate from the sea. I stayed there for just the right amount of time, between one group of people leaving and the next group arriving, and as I walked back through the fields to my car I felt the peace and lightness that a ritual performed at the right time can sometimes bring. Not that the sadness and longing have disappeared since then, but they’re not all that’s there. On the way back I stopped off at a pub called The Open Arms – a very ordinary little pub – and that too seemed like a blessing. Since that Sunday I’ve been lighting a candle which seems to symbolise both loss and new hope, and I’ve been wishing the other person well.

May all beings be well and happy. May all beings be held in love.

 

 

 

 

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