Welcome, O life! I
Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.
I first read those words when I was nineteen, in my last term of high school. In those days I still dreamed of being an actor so they had little effect on me. It wasn't until six years latter, when I was beginning to realize my true nature, and calling that they began to speak to me with their full force. The absoluteness of those words: the responsibility implied for those of us seeking to create with words is overwhelming, but oh what a dreadful wonderful exaltation of emotion when that voyage is embarked upon.
As a young man in my mid twenties those were some of the most thrilling words to come across. If I had needed any further motivation to switch from acting to writing this provided the final push. For some reason those words had not had significant impact on me in the years since I had first read Portrait of An Artist by Joyce. Then one fateful spring afternoon in Montreal Quebec, an unseasonably warm week in April provided as a gift from the gods, with black hash and red wine floating in my brain, I was sitting down by the water in the Old City. I had brought along a battered copy of Portrait to read through whilst on vacation(I like to read a book in the atmosphere it was written in, when I went to Paris I carried the tome of Joyce's Ulysses with me, to try and catch something of the flavour that may have inspired the author. Montreal is the closest thing to a European city you can get in Canada)
The second I read these words that closed the chapter of Joyce's life that was youth I felt truly that this is, was, and always will be the way for me. The obligation, the need to examine and mine the experience of beings like myself and write about them. To become an observer of the human soul, a critic of our behaviour, a chronicler of our stories. I'm sure the combination of sun, wine and hash had a lot to do with my epiphany, but over the years the fire lit on that spring day has not diminished.
Although it took me another five years to fully relinquish my theatrical ambitions, from this point onward my path was irrevocably changed. The ensuing years have seen many changes, and I've gone periods of years without setting pen to paper or finger to keyboard, but I always knew if I was patient the time would come when I would be ready to realize the dream of forging words into meanings.
Now here I am, half way through the first draft of what I think is a pretty good work of fiction, two small books of poetry for sale in my storefront at Lulu.com, and writing everyday with passion here at Leap In The Dark. Even if I never sell a word, or I never finish another piece of writing, it doesn't matter. You see I'm finally writing from place of truth inside of me. Everything is an extension or an expression of my self as honestly as possible. The biggest truth I've discovered about writing is if one is not prepared to be honest with oneself then the everything sounds false. Not a single note rings true.every artist's strictly illimitable country is himself and the artist who has played that country false has committed suicide. e.e.cummings
Before you can be true to yourself though you have to know yourself. That doesn't mean just the nice light stuff, but also the nasty dark stuff that you've kept hidden under that rock for years. Until you have the courage to expose that place in your soul , and accept it as being part of yourself, your writing will lack honesty and integrity. If we ignore the dark potential of ourselves, how can we claim to understand human nature enough to write about it with conviction.
There is also a certain amount of moral strength that is required to enable one to stay true to one's original intent. You may set out to write great literature or what ever it is you want to create, but as the years pass and recognition or success elude you, or things get in the way of your "doing", it would be easy to dilute or abandon standards. Even easier would be to surrender to the soft blandishments of security and so called social responsibilities. Maintaining focus in an increasingly distracting world, there's always some excuse not to work, is beyond most people's capabilities.
If poetry is your goal, you've got to forget all about punishments and all about rewards and all about self-styled obligations and duties and responsibilities etcetera ad infinitum and remember one thing only: that it's you-- nobody else--who determine your destiny and decide your fate e.e.cummings
There have been times when I have been sorely tempted, when I've felt like what's the point of all this anyway. Nobody cares what I've got to say, nobody even reads this god dammed web log, let alone is going to buy a single poem that you write. Who care what some guy up in Kingston Ontario Canada is writing about. Or, what makes you think you can call this crap art, shit look at all those people who have been published at half your age, making big money, or somebody's done it better already they you could ever hope to do.
A poem bit, or a fragment of a sentence, a piece of a paragraph, float around in your head and you know that somehow that they have to be used but where and how. You can't figure it out because we your such an idiot, a damn failure, and you call yourself an artist, or a writer, or what ever it is you've labeled yourself this week asshole. It can take me weeks to drag my skinny butt out of that tail spin. But then's the morning you finish the chapter, and the pages just fly out of your fingers, and every word is bright and shiny with wit and intellagence. Even your processor chugging away sounds perkier as you sit at the terminal.
But I've learned to be wary of those days too , because they just set me up for a better belly flop the next times the well runs down to a trickle. I know my emotions will get the best of me, and even if there's nothing I can do about it, at least I can be prepared. One of the last roles I performed as an actor was a character in an e. e. cummings play called Him. Him is a playwrite and in a continual struggle with his muse. I'd like to leave you with these lines from a speech of his where he attempts to describe what it is he does.
I am an Artisit, I am a Man, I am a Failure. An Artist, a Man and a Failure must proceed. e. e. cummingscheers gypsyman