The physical body is a strange thing. Blurred lines and all. It belongs to the parallel dimensions of another reality in mental illness, and in the measures of love. It is a wreck if you do not love its posture to death. 'What will become of me if I am not loved?' the physical body asks itself. The mirror becomes the looking glass. The reflection becomes a figment of the imagination when you can find nothing comforting in it. Yet the tortured poet finds beauty and elegance in everything. They take care to find something attractive in everything from birds, nature, and paradise to war. This is not by accident.
This is just a posture of a South African female poet and writer. When I think of alcoholism, sorrow and depression I think of Hemingway driving ambulances during the Second World War. When I think of paranoia, female depression, suffering, and bisexuality I think of Virginia Woolf and the affair she had with Vita Sackville West. When I think of Simone de Beauvoir, I think of the physical relationships she had with her students outside of the classroom. I do not think that sorrow ever leaves you especially if you experienced it in childhood. I believe it will manifest itself later on in adulthood but most importantly, as you grow older it borders on the ripening of adult flesh on the surface, while harvesting a tender feminine or masculine stem that will frightfully defy all logic. The more I read the more I come to the conclusion that the more we learn about the environment we find ourselves, the more we experience physically, viscerally, emotionally, mentally in the sexual landscape that surrounds us. We do not change. It is the minutia that we pass through that changes and must be investigated. We must turn inwards. Ghosts and starvation go hand-in-hand like the mysterious nature of sex and poetry and I say this because human love will not last a lifetime. Our appearance will change infinitely as time goes by. Husbands and children will not last a lifetime. But what does that have to do with the unquiet mind of the tortured poet? Everything. It is not the writer I want to talk about but the poet. Here I thought I would begin to talk about love in its most basic terms. The spiritual plane of it that levels all of us as we come into the world and pass onto eternity. The poet destroys reality but whether or not this leaves scars behind is not their problem. They want to be haunted. They want their poetry to haunt.
Here are some life events, people found in the unquiet imagination of a thinker, intellectual, philosopher, activist, that a female poet from Africa envisions. Reading poetry is a sensation that is fluid. It is nourishing this thin activity. It reminds of our survival. Our survival that is found in our blood, and the ladders of our genes. Survival is also found in the unquiet mind of the tortured poet. Death is just another location. To be oblivious to someone is like being in an alternate universe (paralysis). How do you communicate with this person, people that you love if you cannot embrace them, talk to them and it torments you. I think you give them a signal. When you are in love, it is almost like an illness, this stupor, this nameless disturbance. In addition, the poet writes, but what do other people do who aren't poets? They let life happen to them. They find that concentrated quiet word 'love' beneath them, complicated, and unnatural to them. The body of a woman is art. The body of a man is art. Art has both physical and spiritual dimensions to it like an empty mountain, the rural countryside, unbroken communication, old men and women reliving their childhood through flashbacks, memories and dreams and their own grandchildren,
There is alchemy in daily prayer when you release that element of the weariness of the world. Humanity when you witness the profound harm that human beings can cause to others, their folk, their tribe and their people. The female poet says, 'Beautiful boy, who are you (you meant an awful lot to me at one time and then we had a bad falling out)'. The canvas was propped up like trees. Here books taste like the sea, sea light falls through the pages, it tastes as if I am coming up for air, doing laps in a swimming pool princely blue. It has that image of waiting in the wings, the silhouette of forgiveness, and a portrait of the selfish, hungry me, that half-living thing I worship. With books there is the fastening of the mother tongue, an endless stream of consciousness fascination and catapulted wonder framework, memory work, the walking wounded, scars like stigmata, freedom of imagination in the method-actor abandoning all rules of engagement on the stage. Books honour tradition. They say, 'Here is the heritage. Here is the exit route you have been following all of your life before anything wounds you any further.' Do men also have to struggle with equality; is there a nausea to solidarity? The apparitions in the poet's unquiet mind struggle with identifying romantic illusion and the glare of the appearance of the emotional.
Putting on my 'information science' hat: I love Hemingway. What writer out there doesn't? What tortured poet doesn't? I have been fascinated with his life and his women, his circle of friends, In Love and War and that he used to be a journalist. I do like American writers but not as much as like books written by people who write about themselves. My favourite book that I go to all the time is A Moveable Feast. I ration it. It is a short book so I know it is not going to take me a long time to read it. I know what it meant to be homesick, hungry, a poor, starving artist whose only known survival kit was 'family' because I've lived my whole twenties like that. His close-knit circle of friends and his wife who had a baby on the way. He would sit in a French cafe, eat onion soup with big chunks of bread, drink coffee, and think and think, watch the world go by, observe everything around him. His life was simple. He was a very complex, complicated man and so were his stories. He lived it. He wrote it. Some of his stories were exquisite masterpieces that were very simply written and so he became a legend. His writing was a brightening force in the world. (Why do so many writers like drinking coffee? I love drinking coffee because in between those gulps there are interludes filled with phenomena that make me think.)
Let it just wither away: (Whom do you love, whose writing do you keep on going back too religiously? Do not think about copying them, their style is their style and they have their own technique. Copy them in secret. Take words out that stand out for you. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about many imaginative things. He has inspired a lot of my newer work. I would never dream of copying him because he was truly a master at what he did but I have begun to look at a bigger picture and all the details that God is included in. Rainer, he never lectured on his opinion on religion or God but that is not something that I want to do. When people inspire you they want to hear 'the outspoken you', 'your voice'.) All my teachers and mentors have helped me along this far. All my English teachers especially. But you must if you can speak in other languages write in your mother tongue because we do not have enough mother tongue languages in our side of the world. In Africa.
There is only Moses in the Wilderness: So all I see is young artists and they ask me how they can publish their work, how they can become better writers? It has nothing to do with becoming better at it. They are already there. You have to be committed to your craft. You have to take vows. There is a sacred contract between a writer and a book. Some of us become so wounded in the process of rejection (we see it as abandonment) that we never go back to what we have been called to do in the first place. We forget we are poets and that being tormented and unseen at the same time is part of the seam of the process. We are writers. We are struggling iconoclasts. We are all part of the iconoclastic-family. We are futurists. We are sculptors. We are already there. We just needed the elegant mathematics to help us along. Sometimes we neglect 'the gift'. There is a kind of alchemy in your head when you begin to write. It has its own machinery, its own wheels and all it asks of us is this: Write anything. It might not be perfectly edited. Just do not censor yourself. You need grit. It is going to take you far, wanderer, like Moses in the wilderness. All compositions that are aligned for art's sake and in hardship, trial and despair, that desperation, sly in the voice and mind of the cuckoo living wasteland of the tortured poet is mine. Mine for the taking. Breath taking as impoverished courage might seem to be sometimes it is worth it. It is not just the festival of it that amuses me, pours itself into me, the physical me, it is all the elements. Greatness lies in the peace it gives me.
Read much. Read everything you can get your hands on because it will not just inspire you, it will inspire your imagination and your subconscious. Perhaps silence is the best answer, (guardian angels have swords and humanity has silence). Do not spend all your time thinking of all the negativity in the world. Laugh. Smile. Become aware of just how much you have to be grateful for, for every lesson is a breathing lesson, a celestial navigation on this patchwork planet (my entire favourite reads by Anne Tyler).
Just think of what came before is now gone. Past is past. Intellectual thinkers, ego, psyche, that psychological framework. Well now, there is only personal space, future living and soul retrieval, consciousness travelling across the globe. What I believed to be before, as truth has become knowledge. And isn't knowledge powerful? Knowledge of the present situations taking place all over the world mostly conflict, mostly war, mostly brutality from man against man and vulnerable women and children caught in the middle.
Article © Abigail George. All rights reserved.
Published on 2017-05-22
Image(s) are public domain.