Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Wednesday, 28 September 2016



You took the child in me in your arms
but none of his fears.

They waited a little off
knowing you wouldn't hold on forever.

It would have been nice
to have kept them waiting a little longer.

You had just as much of a claim on me
as they did.

6 August 1989
Life’s all about distraction or so it has often seemed to me, not wanting to face the reality you find yourself in. One of the most distracting things—although not a thing in itself—is novelty. We love new things, new phones, new clothes, new TV shows. Mostly they disappoint but there’s always the chance they might not. Distraction’s a means of forgetting, an inefficient one because forgetting is far harder than it seems but it does provide temporary respite and if we can arrange for some other distraction to time it so that you can transition from one to the other as seamlessly as possible you can create the illusion that whatever it is you’d like to forget—your wife, your job, the fact the car’s overdue a service—is no longer a problem that needs to be attended to. B. was a definite distraction and it took a long time for the novelty to wear off. It did and even in August 1989 I could see the writing on the wall but there was still time left. 

When we talk about addiction we generally think of substance abuse first of all, drugs or drink, but experiences can be addictive. Writing poetry is most definitely habit-forming. There’s a high that comes with it. Christ knows what chemicals our brain releases (bet you a pound to a penny it’s dopamine) but something pleasurable happens to be when I’m writing a poem, a physical reward. It doesn’t happen so much with prose but then there’s a purity and an immediacy to poetry; it’s just different. I may fiddle with a poem for weeks after it’s been drafted but by that time I’m one step removed; I’m no longer writing a poem, I’m editing one and that involves a different skill set. 

Not everything distracts me. Actually very few things do and it’s amazing how much I’m oblivious to. There’re a couple of ornaments hanging from the curtain rail behind me—a moon and a star—and I remember asking Carrie a wee while back how long they’d been there. Months! I think of (for want of a better word) inspiration in terms of sympathetic resonance which Wikipedia defines as “a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness. The classic example is demonstrated with two similar tuning-forks of which one is mounted on a wooden box. If the other one is struck and then placed on the box, then muted, the un-struck mounted fork will be heard.” When I was around B. she touched me without touching me and the poems just kept appearing. Decorative moons and stars it seems do nothing for me.

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