from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 29 September 2017

a way of being free*

Words are powerful. The Nazis burnt books. It's said too that the Christian monks arriving on Iona burnt the druids' books. Words can change nations, can inspire optimism and activism (think of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream') or terror (think of Trump's tweets).

Words can be used to soothe and love just as they can be used to stir up racial hatred or guerilla acts of brutality.

Words cast spells, in the most literal sense.

'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God.'

Words can change lives.

And here, in the UK, we are privileged to have what should be that most universal right: freedom of speech. Let's not take that for granted.

And words can set you free.

Yesterday, in a day where I switched from poetry in the morning to teaching novel-writing in the afternoon, I was reminded of the power of language.

I'm currently writer-in-residence at Greenway, as you will know if you're a regular visitor to my blog. Yesterday, for National Poetry Day, I was on hand to accost visitors to the property to encourage them to write some lines on a poetry postcard.

The morning was flatout busy, and it was very good to exchange poems and ideas on poems with some of the visitors who were well-informed about poetry already – I've felt 'dry' in relation to poetry as a way of life and thought lately, so it helped re-immerse me.

It was also so good to see the enthusiasm with which the more intrepid visitors allowed words to pour onto the postcard, and I was reminded once again of poetry as a means of connection and reconnection – with the wider world, of course, but also to the inner life. I gathered a fat handful of postcards, which will be exhibited in the house at the end of November.

After a quick lunch break I had to shift my mindset (although only a little) to offer the first of three sessions on writing the novel.

I always prepare my sessions, but sometimes find I can bin, or at the very least take detours from, my prepared material.

So I found myself talking a bit about 'essential nature' and 'prevailing' or 'conditioned' nature (can't quite remember the context but it was to do with creating characters and their part in driving the plot).

It reminded me that one of the gifts of writing is finding out the essence of who we are, how the world is, where we might belong; finding ways to cut through, even shake off, others' and our cultures' mores, expectations, demands, to find out what we truly believe and value.

No matter what we write, in some ways it shows us what we really think, are engaged by, love, or maybe even fear, about the world, what our beliefs and expectations are. Also no matter what we write we uncover themes, if we're looking for them, that arrive from the deep subconscious, personal or collective, and in some form or another can show us where the work of growth in our own psyche might be best needed.

For I believe, like many others before me, one of whom is C G Jung, that our 'mission' here is to do with wholeness; becoming wholer.

And this is perhaps one of the biggest gifts of the writing process: to discover, uncover, recover 'stuff' that, reincorporated into and thereby enlarging our conscious mind, can add our small flame that is now burning just a little brighter to the bigger collective fires of healing and wholeness we so need in our fractured world.

* the title is the title of one of Ben Okri's books; a very inspiring read (but not part of this blog).

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