I am eager for the return of the swallows in spring (we are now in the midst of the South African winter); I want them to hear the “To a Swallow” poem completed in their absence.
I have chosen the final variation quicker than expected. Where I can, I prefer to preserve the original concept of a poem; with this precept in mind, the choice was obvious. “Quietude” then is complete!
Of the seven “Quietude” variations I mentioned a few days ago, I have eliminated five. Two now remain (in near-final form), one in line with the original poem concept, the other departing from it slightly. I shall vacillate between the two in the days to come and settle, at last, on one.
I extol just such a scene as this in the recently completed “Over the Mountain” poem. I took this impromptu photograph on Friday whilst out among the hills—to me, heaven.
One illuminating byproduct of self-examination has been uncovering the sources of my attraction to sadness. It is an emotion I have felt for as long as I can remember, and I have written in the past about its origins1. Briefly, in my formative years, I experienced the absence of a parental bond, constantly in the care (or rather neglect) of others who had neither the time nor inclination to connect with me emotionally. A highly sensitive2 child—what in the “humours”3 of Greco-Roman medicine could be described as a “melancholic” temperament—I took this to mean that I was unloveable, unwanted and wrong for needing attention; and so I slowly withdrew, emotionally and physically, consoling myself with solitude, reflection, knowledge and beauty—things to which I was naturally drawn that did not require the company of others.
It was with this sense of life4—that existence is tenuous connection, consoling isolation and undeserved joy—that I indulged my desire to create; and what I created, what I admired and took pleasure in, was a manifestation of my inner life. My taste in music illustrates this perfectly: I would enjoy cheerful music but felt that I was “wrong” for doing so, guiltily listening then setting it aside, convinced I am unworthy of happiness. Only sorrowful music felt “right”. When I discovered the ambient, drone and shoegaze genres, it was as if I could hear my sense of life played on instruments: the haze of my experience concretised in reverberations and obfuscated in textures. Unsurprisingly, I embraced those musical styles wholeheartedly. Something similar happened in other art forms: the more melancholy the work, the more appropriate to my sense of life it felt, and the greater its effect on the content and aesthetic of my tastes.
You see it in my choice of project titles—the visions they conjure of separation (Forgotten Fields, Lonely Swallow5); in my music—the sense of longing (for connection) and lamentation (for not attaining it)6; in my poetry—the simple rhymes (evocative of a romanticised childhood); in my aesthetic—the minimalist abstract visuals (reflecting a child seeking warmth in ideas to escape the coldness of his reality); in my theme—nature as a source of solitude, beauty and comfort (requiring only that I exist to receive it); in my subjects—the fleeting moments of the natural world (as insignificant as I felt in childhood: a bird singing in the distance, the wind spilling over the grass, clouds dissolving in the sky). Understanding the origins of these—how my upbringing and temperament conspired to produce them—is deeply affirming.
- “This November”
- “Sensory process sensitivity”, Wikipedia
- “Four temperaments”, Wikipedia
- “Sense of life” is a term coined by Ayn Rand. It describes our subconscious understanding of existence which in turn determines the nature of our character and how we respond to the world.
- My micro-label.
- The best example is The Zephyr and the Swallow.
I have, throughout my adult life, found myself in the grip of a darkness: a persistent sense of dread and sadness caused by emotional neglect in childhood1. Its devastating effect has been the conviction that I am, at the core of my being, shameful and inadequate, leaving me yearning and striving for a perfection that would prove me worthy.
Whilst I have been labouring desperately and diligently under this self-imposed condemnation, I am at last recognising its destructive power and have, over the past few weeks, begun in earnest to dissect the beliefs that constrain me.
To distance oneself from familiar lies and become acquainted with daunting truths is an emotionally taxing exercise, one that only Art can make bearable, wherefore amidst this ordeal, I continue to work on poetry. Writing verses for this collection is a balm of joy beyond comprehension, dispelling my sorrows, giving me the courage to endure.
- “General lack of bonding with children, including disregard, dismissiveness, distancing, misattunement, disassociation, heedlessness, carelessness, oversight, inadvertence, inattention, unconcern, inconsideration or indifference. Ignoring or not communicating with children during periods of separation from them.” – “The Impact of Emotionally Neglecting Children”, Recovery Direct
You know something is central to a poem when you are prepared to rework or sacrifice any other part of the composition to preserve it—when it appears in every variation and has survived every revision.
This, at first, seems an impossible task, for I consider them all to be promising; but over time the shortcomings of each become apparent, and one by one they are discarded until the most succinct variation remains.