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Memory Work and the Gut Symmetry of Writing

 

The very act of writing anything is emotional. It is a key to our borderline spirit. It grounds us when our ego swells. It is a hard – from the get go – career to be successful in. Realising this from the onset only makes us see the world as it is and not through rose-coloured glasses.

The very act of writing has a link and a learned leaning towards soul consciousness or God consciousness. It has a separate identity and will from man’s ego. Its seed is precious and only lasts as long as the poet is conscious that the hymeneal stream of thought in his mind is not a daydream or wishful thinking. Poetry reveals the deepest secrets that come from the core of our heart. Many poets are self-taught, educated in the tough and mean ways of the University of Life, drawing their inspiration from the scope of the universe around them, touching the tendrils of life and fashioning them in a unique platform and forum. It is this that gives way to the culmination of love and mysticism in the poet’s voice.

What motivates me to write? It’s harder to explain to non-writers and easier in some ways to explain to writers who write for the sheer thrill of it, the madness clicking away inside your brain and the hell of it; to sweep away all the cobwebs out from underneath your psychic mind. In some cases writers sometimes miss the interior spaces that come in the neutral, empty nothingness between the words. Writing has created miracles in my life; it has created within me a deep sensitivity for the human condition, mushroomed insightfulness in the blackness of my depressions that is and will be forever linked to my imaginative, artistic and creative expressions. Without my depression I cannot write. I am left blinded; exiled from the distortions and the truthful meanings of words, a weakened, grasping, and gasping fool, a terrifying puppet with a weathered resolved.

Mysticism, love in poetry and piled up features with nowhere else to go except the slush pile.

Writing ages me as I arrange the words on the page, mellows me like a fine wine as I slowly take cognisance of the fact of what I am committing to the page. It smells of the scent of freshly washed, limp hair, something novel and benign, linen airing in a cupboard lined with peeling old-fashioned wallpaper left over from an odd job of doing a wall years or months before. Writing reminds me of my mother’s rose garden in full crimson bloom (the one that she meditates on early in the morning), her perfumed wrists, her perfumed lobes behind her ears, it pulls and pushes words gently and then forcefully against my mind like oars in water, makes me crawl like a vulnerable baby, makes my words walk stooped like an elderly man leaning on a cane who has frail and delicate bones. It spooks me sometimes; jerks me into tidal daydreaming, when pain or hurt moves within me leaving me to lick my wounds so does inspiration in small doses or a heavy weight. Inspiration for me has always been the definition of a miracle.

And so we come to the education of the mind.

Writing is my calling. It has taken me over twenty years to discover that. For years I considered it a secret. Words would rush out like blisters out of my pen. I won prizes for it at school. I had imagination. I was imaginative and sensitive. I was going to be an investigative journalist or a documentary filmmaker. But God infinitely takes those decisions out of your hands, chooses your pathways; your final destination. It carried me through tumultuous times; bullying, changing schools, built character, boxed my creativity within me until such a time came when I could put it to good use and colour invisible boundaries around me to protect my mad heroines and protagonists, my adolescent moodiness. I alternated unnervingly emotional maturity, alchemy, humanity and purity. For this I have to seek inspiration everywhere. For all the parts, egos, identity crisis, cogs and wheels of the machine to work I have to rely not only on pen and paper but also on hope, education, beauty and then setting everything to self-destruct so that only a blot of that remains that I can knit at, peep at, peek at, address, disguise and dismantle. I knit all these blots together and make them into features that heal, features that magnify the audacity, the intensity of the circle of life that has to be, most of all, endured. Something changes when we grow older as writers. We overcome storms.

The fate of the writer.

The denial of suffering for your craft comes easily to some writers; not to all. There are times when I feel like every word I write is the last one that will come to mind. It scares the hell out of me. First, where do all of them, these words, come from (this always amazes me), some kind of wish factory from heaven? Will they eventually die out, become extinct; aside from behaving like gorillas in the mist at first to capture your attention even in a dark, hellish mood? Or will they vanish without a trace into a shimmering haze from where I first beckoned them from like a heat wave? Sometimes the world is a blur. There is no filter from your head to your mouth and the messages that your brain is sending to your memory box is so frequent and excessive that you forget jewels of thought and pearls, gems of wisdom. Words when they’re estranged from you (this is called writer’s block) always set up a challenge for the writer. Have I lost it now completely? You grow older in years but the words that spring from you are always in their infancy. You always have great expectations for them.

There are pieces of writing that pierce hearts, pieces that charge the air with electricity, pieces that leave readers in tears, wanting more, having their cake and eating it too. Pieces of writing that pierce the heart, leaving the writer breathless, leave the reader breathless too. If you’re moody, that usually rubs off on the characters as well and the reader can sense that. Never hesitate to write when you’re depressed. Some of your best work although it can be suggestive of what you were feeling at the time should well just be left alone to stand on its own ground and speak for itself. Don’t explain too much or you’ll give it all away and then where is the sense in that. Writers birth words, give words life, give them air to breathe – mouthfuls of it – and give them a splash of colour to rejuvenate them in a sense of a wonderland. They’re not written on the body in tattoos for nothing. We are all hungry for words and for knowledge and for the gifts that come from them.

And so we come to the eyes of the gods.

In words, in language, in meaning and their purpose we can see the eyes of gods. Some are Buddha-like, sturdy, built like brick walls. There are others like me out there who see words as meat, living out their dreams writing haiku and poetry until it completely sates their thirst like moths attracted to light bulbs, getting into the spirit of it all of being a little known writer, while having a normal day job that pays the bills. The empty shell of a writer is one that attracts eternal insomnia, fighting off sleep, madness, depression, mental illness, psychologists, chaos, disorder across a desk and leaves room for little else some might say, but the shell also retains the order of families, progeny, small children growing up with vocabularies of children much older than they are; writing and words come with a love even of just hearing the wonderful words of herbal teas like chamomile that your psychiatrist drinks during her breaks from seeing her patients, chai tea from India that your sister brought home from her vacation there or an infusion of green tea or a flask of coffee. It leaves you with a hunger, no, a craving for seeing your name out there as if it was a completely different entity than you and what you created out of nothing; simply words.

By using my powers of observation as a child; that’s how the English language, verse, the rhythm and internal rhyme of words came to me, came at me from the symmetry of my gut. Growing up the eldest of three children, my father drilled ‘responsibility is key when it comes to your younger siblings’ into the fabric of my mind. I always wrote. I had diaries in which I would bare the darkest secrets of my soul when I was a girl. I keep journals even now. I love the stream of consciousness writing that comes from journaling. I love putting staccato-like pencil to paper, watching the vast wilderness of your consciousness unfold within the demonstrative blossoming sight of your imagination. I do write full time and I’m a workaholic. Everything is a process. Writers and poets by nature are sensitive and intuitive. I don’t know if this happens with all writers from other countries but I do know this. African writers write in blood. It’s in the ladders of their genes. If I said, ‘I don’t like to talk about my new work. It means I’m getting ahead of myself.’ What would that mean; that I’m arrogant, think highly of myself, that I’m above other writers and poets? Humility continually cuts a writer’s ego down to size. I’m constantly thinking aloud about whatever I’m working on and I have to make notes. I think if I told you what I was working on, I don’t think you’d completely believe me. My memoirs, another prose poetry book is in the works, I am constantly writing or working on ideas for short fiction. The medium of being published online has certainly afforded me a lot of opportunities (that I wouldn’t have had otherwise) and for that I will eternally be grateful for generous, hardworking editors who work behind-the-scenes who have given me ‘lucky’ breakthroughs and for those who have published my work in print.

That is a very difficult question for me to answer. I am most comfortable with the genre of memoir when I am in that frame of mind. It’s when I feel I have the most freedom to speak my mind, to write as I please with no one telling me what to do, wanting to change this or that. When it comes to writing poetry, haiku, prose poetry I am like a caged bird when I’m in that frame of mind. When I am most inspired, I am also most lost. There am I, changing the structure of a sentence, taking a phrase out, self-editing, editing, editing. It’s never going to perfect but to me it has to be as close as I can get. And if it isn’t perfect then I feel that I’ve failed somehow in a way.

I would like to try my hand at writing science fiction. ‘Mr. Goop’ inspired me. Ivor W. Hartmann’s story that won the Baobab Prize a few years ago.

Above all read African writers, read everything you can lay your hands on but most of all be you. In the end, the only thing that matters is between you and your God, truth and beauty, love and mourning, nothing and everything, faith and light. The continent that has inspired so many generations before you will inspire other poets and writers and will continue to inspire you and I’ve been there. I’ve had pieces of work that have been rejected, ripped apart by a ‘glassy-eyed’ editor, so will you. It will not be, is not the end of the world.

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Image: Jenny Downing

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