Friday 15 June 2012

HIstory Memory and Truth, writing and re-writing the past.

Several things have made me ponder recently. It happens. I do try to avoid it as I prefer to open myself to Imbas and inspiration before the clumsy affectation of intellect intrudes itself; the conscious creative mind should polish and refine not dictate. But occasionally a lot of thoughts accumulate around a given aspect of writing and poetry and I need to give them free rein. This is one of those times.

There's a tendency to dismiss Firenne, Truths, in modern life. In writing it has become more advantageous to be glib and clever than to have either heart or truth at the heart of one's writing. Each year, prior to having my son, I read the shortlist for the Booker. I lost count of the number of times I closed a book at its final page and thought....meh. Well written but utterly pointless. Nothing new said, nothing original posited, only style. (One reason I was so delighted Wolfe Hall won was that for any flaw it boasted, it more than made it up to the reader with heart and originality.)  
One advantage among many of writing on the Fringe, and one of the joys of being involved in publishing independent poets like Inga Brigitta or Maureen Aisling Duffy-Boose * is that one gets to read or edit honest, heartfelt writing, with real and identifiably genuine voices. I also like to read blogs and news articles; opinion pieces and polemic. I like to read truth, even if it's just that one person's truth, even if I disagree with it. I hate inherited opinion, unthinking comments, glibness. I hate the clich├ęs of apocryphal writing - stories that are urban legends retold as one's own experience.

The question of what is truth arises when one person's version rubs off an other's. It's easy to say that all truths are equal or that there are many truths - until someone lies. Then one begins to think in terms of absolute truths. If I write a version of my past that lies, is it mine to reinvent or do the other players have the right to challenge it? If I recreate myself, and invent my emotions, at what point does my illusion impinge on your reality?

I usually accord a wide latitude to self invention. I mistrust people who never learn, never change and grow and changing often leaves a person far from their origins. I don't begrudge anyone the right to smooth the edges of their life. But there's a point at which lie and truth simply can't coexist. The same is true creatively - without some truth, and some purpose to your truth, you are left with glibness and gloss.
There is no way in my experience to be an honest writer, or artist, without knowing oneself. Acknowledging our flaws, our darkness...more, valuing these things in ourselves...lifts us from scribblers to poets. Our past is as important as our present. We cannot divorce ourselves from the reality of our past without placing 0ur future in danger.
Memory is notoriously unreliable. We all know the example of eye witnesses at an accident who give conflicting accounts of the event. Without rooting ourselves in community, without those old friends and family whose accounts of us help keep us honest, who are guardians of our memories of self, we are rarely true to our pasts.

In terms of poetry, and writing, nostalgia is both a curse and a trap. Equally tempting is the desire to dramatise ourselves, attribute to ourselves wisdom in retrospect, that belies our essential self in that moment and overlies it with some knowing interpreter who refuses to let the older you talk. Even when that's the effect you wish to produce, the secret is to let the original speak and then overlay it with the present.

When you begin to write about shared history, your memories of family, place, society, childhood, youth, it becomes more and more important to respect truth. While you can lie to yourself, lying about others is intellectually dishonest. If you try to present some aspect of truth, warts and all, against your own self if necessary, your audience feels the honesty in all characters. If you try to weight the truth only on your side, the fake peeks through. It's like an acquired accent; you might fool the casual listener for a few sentences but it falters over longer periods and betrays your roots mercilessly.

If you write in truth, even those whose memories differ from yours will find some common ground. We can all, as eye witnesses agree that the crash happened, if not what the driver looked like.

* Maureen Aisling Duffy-Boose's first collection "Songs of My Heart" will be published later this year by PPP Publishing


Thursday 14 June 2012

Lovers in Green

If I were to paint lovers
it would be in the green
perhaps beneath the shade
of some old tree;
perhaps in the autumn
as the leaves turn and fall -
perhaps in the summer,
perhaps not at all.
I would set them among
freshly mown grass,
as the wind gently sighs
and the students run past.
I would paint you in the shadows,
you and I to one side -
smiling and running
your arms open wide.
There would be a bicycle
and a dog chasing ball
and the lovers would sit there
and smile at us all.


Sunday 3 June 2012

Check out a great new blog - "it's her world"

Great new blogfrom upcoming writer Aimee Oakley, a wry look at life, motherhood and the vagaries of crafting. Very enjoyable and definitely one of my "pleasure shared " on this grey whit weekend. Take a look and let her know what you think, we writers need feedback :) In other news if anyone can suggest a good book choice for July for a book club I'd be eternally grateful ! Plus rather chuffed that "at Cluann mac Noise" was used for a poetry workshop last month - hope the participants enjoyed it!