A friend recently alerted me to the poetry of Cavafy and I have found this one poem that I love (as well, of course, as many other divinely sensual poems)… ‘As much as you can’.
The reason I chose this poem to write about is because of the addiction I have felt recently to social media, Facebook, twitter and following other peoples’ (mainly writers) blogs… and too, the emptiness that this feverish addiction can leave me with. A kind of literary on-line party that has no ending. And lately, it has begun to feel as if all the words, the poems, the cacophony of literature, are but a clamour, and not as I thought them to be, a balm.
Cavafy exhorts us to not degrade our lives with too much contact with the world, activity and talk, and to stop dragging our life around to parties etc, until our life ‘comes to seem a boring hanger-on’.
Writers have this challenge – the solitary life required to write, and the need to inhabit the real world in order to have something to write about. I’ve been struggling since my last posting to find a topic, to feel the passion for my topic, to feel the confidence that anyone would care to know my thoughts and this lead me to my favourite quote by Brian Epstein which I read at the launch of my second novel – because it summed up how I felt – this lunacy, this nuttiness, to imagine that words I might choose should have any significance, or indeed that anyone might care to read them.
Then, this week I followed a link on twitter from the International Institute of Modern Letters with quotes from writers about the best and worst things about being a writer. Some are short and pithy and some more belaboured and a wee bit defensive (as per James Brown, who tells us that because he is published by Victoria University Press, some people envy him, perhaps think him too successful). He’s a talented, witty poet and of course we all envy not just him, but anyone blessed by VUP because they hold sway, have cache, and denote a certain high-water mark – not everyone’s tide goes that high. I liked what Victoria McHalick said in two short sentences about freedom versus the pay and too, I enjoyed Hinemoana Baker who worries about her mother and father who worry about her finances! Yes of course, but I bet they’re very proud as well.
And this week, I was talking with other writers about where to send their (my) work – how we choose which press, which publisher, to submit to and where we fit. We are aware that there are some publications where our style, our genre, our voice doesn’t fit. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a voice, but if we continue to butt up against this, and not recognise it, we could stop in our tracks, feel permanently rejected.
Self-publishing. It sounds like a dirty word. It even feels like swearing. But I remind myself that every blog post is self-publishing and self-promotion. And then I remind myself that I own a very precious faded red hard-back book called ‘Supper Waltz Wilson’ written and published (I think) by Owen Marshall himself at Pegasus Press. I have a signed copy which I was given in 2001, after spending 20 weeks in Timaru at Aoraki doing the Creative Writing Course. Owen obviously had a wee stash of these beautiful books that he’d been handing out to his students over the years – I treasure my copy – perhaps a slight over-run on the publishing front? And now, he is one of the top writers in the Random House stable, and arguably one of our best, if not our very best short story writer.
And so as much as I can, I will continue to blog, to write, and to try to find the balance between my solitary self, my social self, my writing life and my perceived ‘real’ life.
3 thoughts on “As much as you can”
Nice post Maggie – well worth reading as I eat my lunch. I was zipping round Twitter and saw you’d posted – flicked over and there it was thoughtful an apposite. Glad I stopped by. As you know, I’m doing an Owen and publishing a limited edition ‘art’ book of my poems. It’s nerve-wracking but fun, certainly more fun than waiting for a publisher to get back to me, and I’m committed to it. Hopefully someone will treasure it one day. Great idea to give excess copies away to students!
Indeed, your lovely publication was part of my inspiration. And I still get a thrill when I hold the original first edition of ‘Supper Waltz Wilson’ signed by the man himself. Wishing you well with your Fringe Festival Translucent Landscapes translucent-landscapes.blogspot.com collaboration.