A friend recently asked me if I was writing. I replied, as I always do, saying that it was going fine, thank you. Which doesn’t really tell you anything, and may or may not be the truth. Which is itself fine. ‘Fine’ can cover a lot of unspoken territory.
Writing, not writing, about to be writing, does it matter? I am asked by another friend to supply a short biog note. I read it back to myself before pressing ‘send’. It says: ‘Anthony Wilson is a poet…’ and then some other words which are much more likely to pass as the objective truth, about things like where I work and live. But am I a poet? Most of the time (any of it?). Only when I am writing a poem, as someone once said. Which isn’t often. (Or maybe a lot: who knows?) Or in the process of writing a group of poems, as part of a creative upsurge or cycle (which may or may not be happening); or in the process of chucking out the bad stuff (i.e. nearly everything) as I tentatively venture to think I should maybe get round to thinking about the possibility of sorting the mess into a manuscript. At which point I go downstairs and make coffee. Am I a poet then? As I make coffee? Or only when I come back upstairs, having not paid attention to the radio, to delete what I thought was a great title and replace it with one I am still not sure of but think will be better in the long run?
‘Fine,’ I say. ‘It’s going fine, thanks.’
And then nothing. We move on to other things. Them, preferably.
All I know is (I know nothing) that there are cycles, and that they are the rules, and in the bits between them you show up, read, mooch, meditate, pray, read, mooch, scratch, doodle, yawn, speak to no one, show up and pay attention. All in good faith. All in hope, but without expectation. Aurora Borealis but no cascade of light, as Heaney says (chance would be a fine thing). And sleep. Lots of sleep. And walks.
And that the worst bit of the cycle is when you think it has really gone forever. The bit between. The emptiness between one project closing and another presenting itself. The void. When you really are certain it has vanished and will not be returning to you. Then. Now? (Now.) This. Now.
Happy National Poetry Day.