“Yes, I do believe that if one is a poet, one should feel every moment as poetic. That’s to say, one should live loving life, and in loving life also its misfortunes, its failures, its lonely moments. All that is matter for a poet—without it he couldn’t write and wouldn’t feel justified. In my case, I do not like what I write but if I don’t write or don’t compose something I feel disloyal to my destiny. My destiny is to conjecture, to dream and then to write and eventually to publish, which is what’s least important. But I have to live in continuous activity or have to believe that I live in continuous imaginative activity and, if possible, rational activity as well, but especially, imaginative.”
In January I stopped going to therapy. I felt we kept going somewhere I did not know how to come back from. A place from which I often emerged confused and inconsolable, ruined for an entire day.
This was a therapeutic relationship that had lasted nine-and-a-half years, with a break of only one month, by far the most stable relationship of my life during that time. I do not know for sure that I will not be back, and perhaps lately I have wondered if a recent edge in myself—what feels like a descent, or maybe an erosion—is a lack of a certain kind of expression that feels not safe to share with anyone else I know. But I think, too, it’s been good to take a break, to notice what I am without it, to feel the way my body recieves itself otherwise, to recognize the patterns that anger and anxiety and lack paint on its surface.
The debilitation I sometimes experience that feels physical but is in fact entirely mental, so convincing I cannot imagine a way out. A sickness, a weight, a heaviness that I need to figure out how to escape. But that first I need even just to recognize.
Today on a hike I watched a golden retriever step into a fast-flowing river, watched it paddle into the place where the current began to take it. When it went into the current it looked momentarily shaken, disoriented—ready to be swept down the rapids only metres from where the river was pulling it in. (Luckily, the dog—with the help of a bystander—was able to return to the bank.)
In the shower afterwards I thought of how much I felt like that dog, rattled by the current and unable to find its footing. The river was too deep for it there. Too deep, and fast, and, for the dog, unknowable.
And I thought, “What am I doing, trying to swim where it is impossible for me?”
Reading Susan Stewart on the voice in poetry, which she compares to the voice of a lover. “In listening I am listening to the material history of your connection to all the dead and the living who have been impressed upon you. The voice, with the eyes, holds within itself the life of the self—it cannot be the another’s.” (110)
I am not quite sure how the particularity of the voice then becomes attached to the voice as daimon—demonic, mediating, traversing—as Stewart suggests, though I follow her when she says that poetry is the creation of being out of nonbeing. (Is the voice non-being that becomes “being” through, first, its materiality, but more crucially through the lover’s identification of the accretion of material—which is really immaterial—with their lover? Particularity as “being.”)
Voice, she later suggests, is similar to the transgenerational haunting described by Nicolas Abraham in “L’Ecorce et le noyeau.” An amateur geologist smashes rocks on the weekend, and gases butterflies in a canister of cyanide, because his grandmother’s first love was forced into a concentration camp, where he broke rocks and was killed in a gas chamber. Voice resembles something like an emanation, superfluous, of what has become part of you without your knowledge. (115)
Sometimes I resist reading for the sole reason that I feel that it changes something in me, hardens something that I can’t identify or understand. It produces an alienation that is a response to contemplation, intake, mediation, as well as to a kind of latent understanding that I like to feel this distance, even if it threatens my being it is also, perhaps paradoxically, the only time when I feel most like I exist (in that nonbeing brought either into form—here—or wherever I go when I pick up a book (like my father retreating into his childhood bedroom to read a book after introducing my mother to his parents)).
(Conversely, I spend a week, two weeks, reading, making tremendous progress, and then I stop—suddenly—something fails, as if I’m afraid of turning a final corner. Perhaps I’m afraid only of being who I am, but that part of me I do not fully determine.)