“A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfilment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
I was at a thing recently. Not a famous thing or even a well-populated thing, but a thing curated with what Gwen Harwood calls ‘lovingkindness’. Friends were there, acquaintances, the pull and push of news and catch-ups and hugs. It was perfect. But every twenty minutes or so I found myself staring into the distance and realising that I wasn’t really there.
Not out of malice, or wondering if there was something better I was missing out on, or even the sudden knowledge that I had not looked at my phone (no signal) for at least three hours. Or even that my friends were not as lovely as I had remembered them to be. (They are better.)
It was there, like a pulse, an itch, an inner ache. The wine and the conversation flowed, musicians played notes in marvellous harmonious sequence, that miracle; I was at the centre of all that was delicious and witty.
Except that I was to be found somewhere other. A place out of the reach of words, not completely silent, more akin to a moan or the breeze across a wheat field. The presence of something stirring out of reach of the echoes of civilization and chatter.
Inwardly I was moaning. Not to be left alone, but to be alone. The tick-pulse-itch-groan was not going away.
Then, between jokes and kisses I saw it: the daydreamy temptation to be continuing with the process of something begun the day before on the back of an envelope. Something I started three years previously and thought I would never get back to let alone finish, something that matters to me, the mattering of which I only understood as it took shape under my hands.
Which is to say: I have been writing. Not ‘am’ ‘writing’, but have been, evidence of which can be seen in these squiggles on very scrappy paper. I have no idea what they mean. Or even who has been doing it.
Once I realised this I relaxed and went back (I was there already) to my friends, just as charming as before, without missing a beat. Whatever it was (or is? or might be?) I suppose I will have to trust that it might come back again, hopefully with me there with it.
Don’t those canapés look delicious. Did you make them yourself? This is the best thing I have been to in years.