Thursday, October 8, 2015
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer
Reading a review today of a collection of writings and aphorisms by a French writer, Georges Perros, I came upon his definition of writing: "Writing is saying something to someone who's not there. Who'll never be there. Or if he's there, we'll be the ones who have gone away." The truth of this summary stopped me because it brings forward the essential loneliness of writing. The urge that we have to write is the urge to communicate but unlike conversation, writing is a communication which the writer can never be sure by whom, how or where it will be received. I reminds me that writing is like firing a gun and not knowing when it completes its trajectory. Sometimes when I read something and I am moved by it, I am also struck by how long this message has traveled before it reached me. After my mother died in 1997, my aunt continued to live in the house that they shared and nothing was disturbed. It was not until 2009 when I moved into that house that I came upon things left behind by my mother that shook me to the ground and made the grief at her loss sweep over me in waves of delayed understanding. I found a diary that she had kept in the late 80s and her well worn copy of the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis with her remarks and prayerful notes stuck in the dog-eared pages. I felt that these were like messages from her that had finally reached me. Some poets have also expressed their sense of their readers of the future. In a sense all of the work of Emily Dickinson was a love letter to the future readers since she did not publish her great poetry in her own lifetime. Keats also brings alive this longing of poets to reach their readers: This Living Hand - Poem by John Keats This living hand, now warm and capable Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold And in the icy silence of the tomb, So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood So in my veins red life might stream again, And thou be conscience-calmed - see here it is - I hold it towards you. John Keats So writing is a kind of act of faith that somewhere, sometime, someone will read the words and finally grasp the hand that has been extended in the act of writing.