How long since you updated your profile?
For someone enchanted by Anais Nin and the concept of fluid personality I've been ridiculously negligent about my profile.
On Dao I'm still the wooden-puppet wordsmith, a profile arrived at by the same kind of looking back that a resume, a CV, requires; and I'm notoriously bad at delivering one of those. I am my work, not my CV.
I do still enjoy the sound of wordsmith, it conjures memories of sounds comprehensible only to me and people who are now themselves only memories.
But the conscious process of smithing has diminshed, the act of collating the finished words has become too immediate, too urgent. Digging around in the how and why, I might discover some other descriptor.
So how do I write poetry? Do I have a technique?
I write like I draw.
I collect images, put them somewhere inside my head and let them go.
I write and I draw the process of making sense
I've always done both like breathing. I just don't remember when I started drawing or writing.
I wrote in English, Danish and my own private made-up language. I kept a poetry diary, but always assumed that my lack of technical language skills rendered these scribbles worthless..
I had more confidence in my drawing. I've always felt confident about creating visual images and eventually the words, demanding words, just started to creep in around the edges. The gestation period for images tends to be longer and more precarious, so I needed to be watchful that the words didn't take over.
When I was homeless and there was no possibility of an actual creative practice, I learned to be so much more attentive to the present moment, to hide stuff away in my head, not attempting any specific memory and with no overall plan. I practiced letting go to be in the present and open out my attention. Structure was problematic so occasionally I would buy a little something exquisite and live with it until the end of the day when I would leave it somewhere - in the hopes that somebody or something would find it beautiful or useful.
When I acquired my home, I wrote and drew everything. I kept a paper record of the present moment. Words and doodles packed into colourful folders I've never revisited, were just a different way of letting go. And I had all this stuff in my head, in my gut, burning, making links, jumping boundaries, refining and redefining itself to rocket its own way out, setting fire to the daily scribble.
When it finally did I was no longer just keeping diaries. People started calling me a poet.
I make daily space for visual images that are no less demanding, no less urgent and somehow integral to the realisation of who I am becoming.
I'm flowing with words, words that murmur and swirl; words that demand I be attentive and follow where they lead. Words that require me to focus and not get distracted by the superfluous.
Words that insist and persist and won't let me go.
Ego presumes to inform me
that I am. That being me is something
consistent, someone whole, someone
who faces the world as an entity;
someone keen to be seen with one face.
One stable personality, without flaws
of multiplicity, consistent of emotion,
recognisable through the fast moving
structures of modernity; and yet
I am only today. Tomorrow I will need
to adjust to circumstances, to failure
and success. To re-evaluation and possibility.
To be, I need to be open to embrace
you and the persons you become.
I need to remain unfinished. Un-entrenched
in the person being formed.
The person who may only become
one complete being
through a process of
years after the existence
Sometimes a word will haunt me - together with it's its partnerships, marriages and associations:
Something that impairs or detracts
from physical perfection; defect
a planar fracture or discontinuity
in a volume of rock. A minor
character weakness; significant
displacement resulting from
earth movement. A break in the
earth's crust that can, nevertheless
result in stunning geography.
Invisible or quirky, minuscule
or mammoth; breathtaking
I grew up with the flag flying.
The halyard whipping against the flagpole in our garden was a constant reminder of celebration. Birthdays and special occasions were always accompanied by the full size rectangle of cloth, sometimes cracking loudly in high winds; I remember once the flagpole actually broke. Other times the heavy oblong hung languidly, still in sultry weather.
On completely other occasions we used the long narrow vimpel, with it's elegant pointed end the finger of fairy tales, of fiery dragons, fierce goblins and beckoning adventures.
And that sound of the rope flacking against the pole? It was comforting to me on dark strange nights when the world was beyond my comprehension and nothing else seemed right.
Our flags came in varying sizes. There were floor standing indoor/outdoor versions, tabletop flags that could be raised or lowered on miniature flagpoles and garden flags to dot along the driveway, alerting guests, rather like people use balloons these days.
And every year, like bunting, strings of little red and white flags dipped from the fairy on top of our Christmas tree and out to the farthest reaches of its branches.
I began my growing up knowing diversity was good. I lived with the concept of nationality as something that just was and the world was where I lived. I viewed Europe as my playground and never associated the fluttering, flapping red and white with anything other than celebration. The flag celebrated joy, fun and happiness, but also embraced haunting occasions when it flew at half mast: Long Friday, the rare deep sadness of death and remembered loss.
I was probably seven or eight before I was allowed to hoist the thing myself. It was always folded and I carried it out onto the lawn with a real sense of anticipation. I laid it on the grass to unwind the halyard from the cleat at the bottom of the flagpole, I remember a toggle on the top edge to attach the flag and once both ends were secured began pulling on the rope.
Usually all went smoothly; with a tug on the lower rope the flag unfurled as it rose into the sky. On rare occasions a snaggle would result in rather exposed failure as the lumpy mess had to be lowered and sorted out.
I didn't stand on ceremony with the lowering. The flag went down on the lawn and I did my best to get it refolded and arranged so that it would hoist without further embarrassment.
Our relaxed attitude to this symbolic piece of cloth did nothing to prepare me for the fanatics I was later to encounter and the resulting deep sense of insecurity that frightened its way through my teens and still never quite disappears from my perspective.
The reasonably easily dismissed hints of xenophobia that are part of most 'bi' children's lives, took powerful shape in my teens. The goblins and dragons of childhood became the wars of race, religion and nationality that lurk beneath the human veneer of civilisation and erupt with terrifyingly predictable uncertainty.
Inside Britain, there have been times when looking and sounding British offered enough space to hide in; having an acceptable difference (my particular foreign genes could be seen as less of a threat) rated me as ok too. And surely now I've lived here so long it makes no difference...
But in my wheelchair I have nowhere to hide...
Peace and pink Floyd:
stairway, gateway, to something
that passes for heaven or
some other kind of non-war process.
In my own bubble of incredulous peace
within the deep roar of protest
and this sense of shock
as the very latest technology
in the shape of modern war planes
dropped the symbolic bombs
of the world's religions:
the sacred symbols
of closed minds; to eliminate
dissension, to build and break
walls, to decimate life on
this Pale Blue Dot. How can we
hold such disparate attitudes
to tolerance, this mess of genetic
mish-mash that calls itself humanity?
Who is for peace? Who is for life?
Why do so many of us imagine that
supernatural power is any kind
of answer? Why
are we so fearful of our diversity?
So dismissive of our humanity?
Where does the urge to damage, belittle
and kill live in this chemical concoction
that gets mistaken for some kind of soul?
How come some of us see things so clearly
yet are so desperately utterly wrong?
Arrogance that eternally tarnishes peace.
The myth of civilisation.
Pink Floyd at the O2
enlightened my senses
with The Wall; the eternal
longing for kindness, hope, reason
in the traumatic midst of
perpetual warmongering chaos.
Quoting E Graham Howe:
Normality, is the paradise of escapologists, for it is a fixation concept, pure and simple.
It is better, if we can, to stand alone and to feel quite normal about our abnormality, doing nothing whatever about it, except what needs to be done in order to be oneself.’
I rolled through some really powerful rain. There were rumbles of thunder and Salisbury Cathedral Close was deserted. Visibility was poor, water was splashing onto the stones of the sculpture 'Sanctuary' and steaming off rather like a vintage Hitchcock movie.
I've done my best with the stones, on March 15th I blogged my initial reaction. Last week on a sunny day I took my lunch and joined the hordes of tourists sunbathing on their stored heat. I watched small children play with one of the smaller pieces that they had managed to dislodge and roll around the green. I searched their eyes, their body language for reactions to the stones as something other than the happy convenience of somewhere free to sit and eat lunch. I laid fingers on the polished surfaces of a jagged, faceted sphere; imagined myself sucked into the vortex of a sliced doughnut of shimmering stone; I have repeatedly failed to find the 'contained sanctuary within the larger contemplative sanctuary of the Close'.
Hovering in the swirls of steam and battered by the rain, My unconscious made sudden connection to the work of Icelandic photographer Anna Maria Sigurjonsdottir. (Both Sanctuary (John Maine) and Eyjafjallajokull (Anna Maria Sigurjonsdottir) are exhibits in the current Salisbury International Arts Festival).
Anna Maria's photographs are stunning. Eyjafjallajokull includes images of spectacular ash clouds from the erupting volcano. Each one is immaculate, the unframed images might be almost ready to step in to. Except that all that pixel perfection somehow slithers away from me. On my way from Salisbury Arts Centre where the photographs are being exhibited, the irony of rolling from the crisp and calm illusion of Eyjafjallajokull into the wet and blurry turmoil of Sanctuary, is not lost on me.
I wanted to be overwhelmed by the vaste emptiness of Iceland, to know the power of nature taking my breath away, the threat of ash tormenting my lungs, the chaos and majesty of the uncontainable. To my dismay, instead of being able to immerse myself in nature's powerful indifference to me, I was confronted by my own indifference: indifference to the caged and polished perfection of this curiosity with the similar incongruence of lions in a zoo.
Drenched in the midst of Sanctuary stonework being rain-battered into the earth, my thoughts are being slammed home by the rumbling majesty of Salisbury thunder. Here are two exhibitions offering me quite the opposite of what I seek, titles that lead me astray with contradictions to my lived experiences. Titles that offer me no way in; break down no barriers; leave me feeling embarrassed, like when you open your arms to someone who looks you in the eye before slowly, wilfully, turning their back.
So what am I avoiding? What is it I don't want to see?
I'm having to work so hard to glimpse anything, but maybe both exhibitions are offering me the opportunity to explore the nature and illusion of 'safe' and the human need to find or create recognisably non-threatening realities? Is this the opportunity to explore someone else's sanctuary? Someone else's idea of living inside the monster?
Here was bread, food for poet,
printed out in haunting glimpses
that chased me back to words,
possibly strained in translation, where
acknowledging the sins of God
Omar Khayyam politely asks
a darkened deity to accept
the forgiveness of man; takes it
upon his shoulders to forgive
the devising of the snake. And
are there women who, similarly,
offer this olive branch? Or are they
too busy with the peace of poetry
up to their elbows - bread dough being
just perfect for the removal
of printing ink from the hard to reach
crannies of printmakers fingernails.
And the starving people mocked by
the non-food of Communion bread,
do they too yearn for flesh-pink ham;
fantasise a sexist Tavern Green?
What kind of love means more
to hungry folk than bread?
And the poet - is she too hungry