Saturday, April 26, 2014

Extremely Wrong

L. Leslie Brooke, early 20th century
www.gutenberg.org


They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
   In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
   To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
O won’t they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it’s extremely wrong
   In a Sieve to sail so fast!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
I have been thinking hard, over the past few months. Probably harder than I have thought since I was a young man. I have been changing my mind about many things – always uncomfortable and distressing – and I have come to conclusions that I don't think much of anyone will like. This leaves me curiously faceless and inarticulate. I don't want no fight, and I haven't got a lot of time.

Having a public face, and being liked for it, has gradually wriggled from the luxury category to the necessity category. It's time, I guess, to try to trap it and put it back. I don't need to be a public person: it actually has many more discomforts than comforts. I am ready to drift back into the radar grass.

I will write, of course. I will always write. But I am going to have to be elliptical, to talk around things, or through them. Poetry will come in handy for that. As soon as you introduce line-breaks, most people stop reading, and those who do keep reading assume that you don't really mean it.

I will miss my old friends and my old community. But I was wearing out my welcome anyway. It's time to go to sea again.

8 comments:

Jarrett said...

I am having a very similar conversation with myself, too. I have 6000 twitter followers and they don't want to hear my self-doubt or my nuance or most anything else except my arguments for The Cause.

Hell, my parents, as artists, were having this conversation all the time, 40 years ago. In those hippie days, a certain level of publicity always brought fears of having "sold out," even if nobody could say quite what had been sold that we didn't still have in abundance. Yes, you sometimes did something to please your patron or audience, not your private self. But Shakespeare made a life of doing that; only the sonnets and poems counted as art in those days.

You're fortunate that you're a public figure for poetry, which allows you to share your soul, think out loud, in a way that I can't. I feel starved by having such a large network who are inaccessible as souls.

Of course, here's the rub: Poets, as public figures, are not expected to be decisive. They're expected to think out loud, try on ideas without maybe committing to them. So when you announce a Decision, expect it to take a while before it's believed.

(o)

alembic said...

(o).... but, a bit of a warning: it's getting slightly crowded on the sea these days

Zhoen said...

Funny, I was never any good at looking nice. Never could hide my darker side. Seen as even worse than I was, much of the time. Only recently have I managed to put on a shiny face and get by, occasionally.

I think I shall like you so much more without the masking tape. Without even the ellipses you plan, although I would never begrudge you the veil.

Lucy said...

You weren't wearing out your welcome with me. I hope whatever you do and however you do it I'll still be able get to see you sometimes.

Peter said...

Struggling with the private/public thing, myself. Of course, it never goes away; it just gets louder at times.

It's funny how different people do elliptical. I get didactic. I guess that's what defines our calling: what do we do when we can't say it? Teach? Write? Build? Serve?

rbarenblat said...

Having a public persona is complicated. I think about that a lot.

Being elliptical is a fine thing. Poetry is a wonderful thing.

And I don't care what you say about missing your old friends / old community; you shan't get rid of me so easily.

Tom said...

So much of one's response must needs be the result of one's own experience. Life will never be long enough, but for what purpose? The purpose is certainly not to continue the fight, particularly against that which will, in any case, pass away of its own accord.

The sea has its dangers, that is undeniable. Yet it has the power to uplift even when the pain is at its most intense. And maybe elliptical is fine, but it would never work for me. I would always be aware that ellipticity, like books, could be a veil to hide behind.

My thoughts are with you through what appears to be a very difficult time for you. I came to "Mole" late, but I do not intend to leave, no matter what 'uncomfortable and distressing' conclusions you honestly reach and share. I suspect I am not alone in that.

johnmesserly said...

It is an enviable opportunity to employ ostranenie to suggest that familiarization is not the way we embrace thou, but how we insulate ourselves from that which we were so open to as children. You have leverage because in your public's mind, they think they are familiar with you. Subtract what they think is self evident, and you bring them not to alienation, or to some greater familiarity with your hidden self, but that world of wonder we once delighted in.

The mistaken familiarity provides the opening you can use. Exploit it.