Having written poetry for the past few months I have been reflecting on my philosophy of writing. Why do I write?
At its simplest level, I write to reclaim my voice. After years of speaking in the voice of others I seek to re-claim my own voice. What do I mean “speaking in the voice of others”. Some of you will have picked up I was a minister of religion. Theoretically ministers speak the voice of God. They speak of certainty and faith; of hope and of love. They do not speak of their fears, their doubts and loneliness. After the church I worked with men who had alcohol/drug and mental health issue. I listened, I nodded, I made suggestions for counsellors do not speak their frustrations and annoyance with their clients. Finally, free of both roles I write to rediscover my own voice.
The ordinary voice of an ordinary man who has grown tired to talking for others. At this level writing is both a selfish and a therapeutic act. It is selfish because it is about me. It is an act of egotism to write, post what is written and think it will be read. It is selfish because the more I discover my voice the more I realise I don’t really care for that part of me that was the “good minister” or the “good listener”.
Yet it is also a therapeutic act, an act of self-healing, for slowly each time I write I gain the confidence to be more authentically myself and step out from behind the walls I have erected to hide behind. If philosophy is the love and pursuit of wisdom then surely it is wise to live unburdened by defences that keep us/me alienated and isolated from others.
Hence the process of writing helps me learn my own voice. Yet it is more than this. We have all been in meetings where we have listened to a speaker who has found his or her voice; a voice which is monotone, droning and without intonation. So it is with poetry, it is not just finding my voice it is finding the cadences with my voice. Cadence has to do with modulation, with intonation. In terms of writing it is the ability to modulate tone. To write lightly, “the gossamer sheen of dragonfly wings translucent in morning glory’s light”. To write with anger – both hot and cold anger; to write with erotic sensitivity, “his voice hung in the auricle of my ear before deep tones slid in and body responded before my mind”. I need to learn the modulations of my voice and this takes time and patience. Often we write when we are too close to situations, particularly when they are painful emotions. While it can be satisfying to do this, we often write with one intonation – rage, or pain. We are like a dog with its’ leg caught in a trap continually gnawing to escape pain. It takes discipline to sit and trust that life and time will give us space and in that space we/I will learn different cadences. Do I have this time and patience? Sometimes, sometimes not. Sometimes I force myself to write and post as an act of courage rather than waiting for cadence.
Writing is a daily act of courage for me. I mentioned above about stepping out from behind the walls I have erected over the years to protect myself. It is true that what once protects us, ultimately will become our prison if we do not dismantle the walls and protective boundaries. Yet courage is not just stepping out after years of pretending to be something and someone else to say this is who I am. It is also the courage to question the status quo.
Perhaps this is the most important role of true poet (and I am not including myself in this category). It is the ability to call into question the accepted truths with the simplicity and beauty of poetry. It is the ability to make people question. For example, to realise that initially intimacy is not something between people. Intimacy must start within ourselves before we can be intimate with others. Love is not just about rainbows and sunsets and warm touches. Love is a hard task master that if we allow strips away our pretences and our selfishness and may then re-build us. To realise that spiritual enlightenment is not something we should be seeking, rather we should be discovering the depths of our humanity.
Yes, I am vain and egoistical enough to dream that one day when I am much older I will be able to write poetry like that. In the meantime I am grateful for the opportunity to re-discover my voice and my cadence and take a little step of courage each day.