New Fragment: “Writing About Writing”

All those smart sentences that pop into one’s head every now and then. The ones that just explain things. Just so. If only it was possible to write a book consisting of nothing but those. But they don’t string together well. They contain no action – and the action needs to be there to fill out the remainder of the book. That action BECOMES the book. IS the book. So the tiny glimpses of genius contained therein is drowned in the sheer volume of words, and you end up with a text that has become watered down to such an extent that it is barely worth writing – and much less worth reading. That’s how it is.

MANY OTHER WRITERS DEAL WITH PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES HAVE SEEMINGLY GROUND TO A HALT. I, ON THE OTHER HAND, PRIMARILY DEAL WITH THOSE WHOSE LIVES NEVER REALLY TOOK OFF IN THE FIRST PLACE.

THE ALTERNATIVE IS TOO EASY, TOO SIMPLE, AND SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS TO MORE PRIVILEGED PEOPLE THAN THE ONES I AM IN CONTACT WITH. WE, ON THE OTHER HAND, NEED NOT FEAR GRINDING TO A HALF SINCE WE NEVER MOVED OUT OF THE SPOT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

What are the odds that any one of us will emerge from this carnage known as the “Digital Age”? What are the odds that any one of us will arise out of the rubble as a Picasso, a Voltaire or a Wordsworth? How would any one of us be heard above the crowd?

Haven’t we, by giving voice to everybody, in idealistic folly, taken away the opportunity for any one of us to be recognized as extraordinary? Haven’t we given up our possibility for being remembered, in favor of indulging the majority, most of whom have nothing to say, but insist on saying it very loudly all the same. How is one supposed to make oneself heard above all that noise? You can’t.

I have come to accept that no matter what I write about, a part of me writes about Lolland. It has been necessary for me to accept that, since acceptance is the only way I can stop thinking and fretting about it – if I did that, the quality of my texts would suffer.

It is quite all right to have a starting point – but not to allow oneself to get stuck on it and unable to abstract away from it. You should build upon it – not allow it to drag you down with it.

There’s a debate these days about whether or not a computer is capable of writing fiction. There have been several attempts at making bots to write poetry. The argument seems to be that a bot can emulate the workings of a human brain in terms of “reading” a lot of poetry, and building on top of what it reads. 

Well, that is true. You can absolutely trust a computer to write generic poetry that builds on the works of Shakespeare, Byron and the likes. But you can never get the computer to truly understand what it writes, because guess what; it isn’t human. It doesn’t feel. It can’t see. So, guess what is missing? The connection between the poet and the reader. That just can’t happen. Allowing computers to create art is yet another way of disconnecting people from each other, in a world that is already severely disconnected. 

What is the point of reading poetry that doesn’t offer you the opportunity to juxtapose your own experience with that of another human? What part of the human experience is a computer supposed to know better than a human?

I can only assume that the people programmers who set up those experiments have no clue what poetry actually is in the first place.

The prose writings of a poet are usually not given their due consideration. More often than not, they are simply seen as another means of shedding light on the poetry; as if that was a higher form of art more worthy of interpretation. 

The poet could have told the art critics that it is not so – but that would require, from the critics, that they developed the ability to hear something other than the roar of their own opinions on literature, spoon-fed to them by education and tradition.

No, the prose and the poetry are of equal standing. They are each simply better suited in different situations. The prose may sometimes be able to elucidate certain things touched by the poetry – but it may just as often be the only fit format to tell certain stories. 

As sad a realization as it may be; the whole world does not revolve around poetry. Not even – at least not all the time – for a poet. 

We are not as blind to our material as the average literature critic tends to be. But then again – we are also the only ones who get to lie awake at night pondering its merits – and we do that no less for one genre than another. It’s part of the project. No less so for a prose text than for a poem. 

I am the physical manifestation of the texts. 

I am the source of them – but they are the source of me. What would I be without them?

There’s no purpose or meaning in my life besides that of writing. None that I have ever been able to ascertain, at least. None that is obvious.

And yet, being the solitary creature that I am, that writing will not live on after I am gone. It will perish with me. Leaving writing, essentially, as meaningless as everything else. Except I have assigned it meaning. And that makes all the difference.

Writing is my way of talking to the rest of the world. They can’t hear my voice, and I can’t make them read my words. I can only hope that a select few will choose to read.

In a sense, I live more in my writing than I do in life. Life holds no value for me. It is empty. Void. Meaningless. Writing is where I live. The one place where I can live.

You can’t write poetry until you can make the poetry write itself. 

But if you do let it write itself, the quality may suffer.

Developing the ability to write poetry to the extent where it can write itself, yet still keeping the process under control – that is the trick.

I have often mocked critics, readers and other human beings for reading too much into the texts. I have often said that if I thought just a quarter of the thoughts they think I think while I write, I would’ve never got to write anything at all.

And yet, here I am. Writing about writing. 

But if a writer shouldn’t think about writing, then who should? It kind of comes with the trade.

The point is; the writing-about-writing is kept separate. Keeping the technical and theoretical speculations to one side while one actually writes (about something other than writing), that is something one needs to learn in order to get ahead.

Developing one’s skills is good. Forgetting it while one actually works is great.

Most people probably can’t distinguish between me and my poems. Well, admittedly the line can be blurred. But the question is moot in any case. The poems are what matters. I am just the conduit for them.

Poetry eats me up. All beauty, all colour, all vitality is sucked out of me, and I emerge an empty shell from the altercation. 

I can read a poem I have written and nearly be moved to tears. Then look in the mirror and actually cry afterwards.

“Poetry cannot be understood if the reader isn’t in the same state of mind as the poet.”

Certainly not, if the reader isn’t willing to try to understand.

I don’t have an issue with minimalism. I don’t have an issue with writers striving to push language and achieve new forms of expression. Not at all.

I merely want to point out that the forms of writing that last and stay relevant – those are the ones the general public finds easy to read.

Published By: K-M Skalkenæs

Danish poet, writer and painter. Writings include her own original poetry in English and Danish, and translations of poetry from the Scandinavian languages and German into English.

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