Saturday, August 29, 2009

The loneliness of the diary

I have been watching a documentary on Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet. The man amazes me. He seems so ordinary and yet the words that come from his mind and tapping fingers are extraordinary. He can take something as simple as peeling potatoes with his mother as a boy and turn it into a prayer. A prayer, I mean in the highest sense of beauty.
Heaney has a feel for words, the poet’s sensibility I suppose. I wish I had it too. I see it elsewhere, in poets elsewhere, but I have never been able to tackle words with such delicacy and respect myself.
I am a racer when I write. The words roll out of me. I do not stop to attend to them, to look for the finest alternative word, because I fear if I do so I will lose my momentum. I am a writer who uses momentum to create a scene. Momentum gives me rhythm and when I lose it I tend to stumble and stutter. But I wish, oh how I wish, I could string words together, string images together like Seamus Heaney.

I must avoid beating up on myself at this point. It is so easy to do. The writer’s lament: why do I not write like so and so, or such and such? Why do I not perform as well as he or she? Why are my words awkward and clumsy on the page?

I use my blog to practise my writing, to play around with ideas and to communicate with others. Is this the way others operate? Do other bloggers write on blogs primarily to communicate, or to practise their writing, or to show off, or to struggle with ideas, or to assert their certainties or share their doubts? These questions are probably ridiculous. As with so many things there are probably as many reasons for blogging as there are bloggers.

It beats the loneliness of the diary. When I was a young girl, around fifteen years of age, I wound up in a Catholic boarding school for the best part of a year. It was not an easy time. My sister boarded with me but she seemed, at least to me, she seemed to handle the experience better. She was a neat and orderly child. She could keep her clothes in good repair. I was a slob, with teeth rotting in my mouth that I sought to hide from the nuns and from my mother because I feared both the shame and pain of attending to them.
In boarding school everything ran in order. The boarders, most of them country girls from places like Numurkah, Wonthaggi and Maffra, wore picture perfect uniforms, each item clearly printed with their names in the top collar or on waist tags. Even their socks and underpants were labeled. I hid my underwear and socks in shame. I ran a furtive washing operation on my own, unbeknown to the nuns in the laundry, because I could not bear to let them see my tatty underwear.
It’s a familiar enough story but I use it here as a metaphor for other secrets and for this underlying sense of my writing - that it is messy and a disgrace.
Perhaps I should confine it to the loneliness of my diary.
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