Several months ago I went to a poetry book launching, after not having gone to such events for quite some time. The author was an acquaintance of mine (hey, LY, I know you’re probably not reading this), someone who had said kind words about my writing, seems a lifetime ago. At the launch I saw my old friend R, and I know he’ll forgive me for saying this (you WILL probably be reading this, R), but at that particular moment I had not expected, nor wanted, to see him. R, whose friendship is inextricably linked to my short-lived stint as a "published poet" (I say that with sarcasm), whose opinion I valued the most at the time. A few years ago R had come close to going somewhere I did not want him to go, selfish admirer of his work that I was. Or maybe I’m twisting my memories and he’ll deny this ever happened. In any case, I had written this piece for him, and I hold this in the same way authors arrogantly love particular works they are attached to that they refuse to edit or revise a single word. At the time I had been in a euphoric mood, having gotten two poems accepted for publication in a literary journal overseas, a special edition on Asian writers in English. That I was experiencing this while I knew what R was contemplating, moved me to address him thus (R, you always knew this was for you.) -
It came in the mail today. My longed for future, distilled in two words.
Author’s proofs. Funny what they call them, like it was some sort of joke, some pun to torture us with, we lovers of words, we spinners of songs.
Two words, stamped in red ink. I never would have thought the world could be contained so concisely.
Proofs. That they’re wanted. That they’re yours. That they never again will be.
Was it not so long ago that I asked of you this very thing?
I suspect that’s what we youngbloods have always wanted --- some tangible hook to pull us through the long haul, some tenable string to make us want to stay.
Well, they’re here now, R. Plainer than plain. Two words, stamped in red ink. I have them. My proofs. Mine.
And how wondrous, these things I now hold in my hands. The weight of it all has never been as immense.
- most fervently for R., itinerant poet: how I wish you would come back –
To cut a long story short, R did not abandon poetry writing altogether. I did go to that last book launch he had, and I loved the poems. So why did I not want to see him at that other book launching several months ago? Because I had pretty much abandoned writing.
I wish I could remember what we talked about in those brief moments as we stood at the back of the auditorium. I had meant to blog about it, but was unsure if I wanted R to read the said blog or not. I procrastinated and it never got written. THIS almost didn’t get written. I sat down a few hours ago to blog, with this specific content in mind, but my mind found excuses yet again to belay it. But I finally willed myself to just do it. So now I’m sitting in my room, alone, with all possible sources of distraction removed. (If I don’t finish this soon it might very well turn out to be some sort of sweat lodge experience, for even the amount of air circulating in the room is limited. Which is to say, neither the air conditioner nor the electric fan is switched on. And then there’s also the hunger pangs, which I should start feeling in a short while…)
So now what have I got to say? I’m pretty sure R asked me if I was still writing, and I must have said no. And he might have asked why. I must have given a stock answer like I was busy or did not have time or inspiration had not come. I know why, have always known why, and I suppose now is as good a time as any to confront it. Looking back at that time when I was at my most creative, I believe what allowed me to write as much was that I was at least content, and was able to easily turn inward, go to that place that allowed me to wield words. I have lost that place. Amidst the noise of real life, where before there were fragments, lines, imagery, metaphors I used to jot down on scraps of paper or a notebook, there are now hard facts, problems, truths that are hard to swallow but that have to be, to survive day by day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I used to write about puppies and rainbows all the time – hardly! And surely I had written enough pained, sad, ascerbic, or morbid pieces to be considered jaded. It’s not the subject matter that has changed, it’s where I’m coming from – I can no longer go into the quiet and create. I suppose you can say I have become so mired in reality that I can no longer imagine being anywhere else.
Now I'm sitting here wondering how I should end this entry. Back when I started this blog I had said this was not meant to be a confessional. I could go several directions from here, but I won't. Perhaps I will leave that for another day.