I am an author, writer and poet and have been for some years. Now these three monikers are self-chosen for a particular reason. It is an attempt to differentiate a practice that occurs in the one mind, my mind. They are not distinct personalities or marketing ploys or even literary genres. They are in fact one word descriptions of what I do.
I am an author of books, a composer of stories and poems and essays, an originator of literary artefacts. Some of the books I’ve authored were in fact anthologies. I also answer to the wider and more culturally active definition of the author as beginner or prime mover of anything, but particularly ideas and forms of activism. The author is an efficient cause of social change.
Between novels and stories and poems I write all sorts of things. For example yesterday I rewrote The Stations of the Cross by St Alphonus with the expressed aim of including it in a novel. The day before that I wrote for two hours in a coffee shop overlooking the forecourt of a shopping centre. I wrote about the people I saw, lightning descriptions, little mobile profiles, sharpening my senses, responding to real people in real time and noticing how the shoppers respond to the mall furniture and their interior purposes and the excitement and imposition of others.
I write novels and stories and poems. I write and rewrite as a matter of course, backwards and forwards over the page, refining, clarifying, embellishing, tightening, as water might lap a shore. Eventually the volume of the work expands like the force of the in-coming tide. I keep a journal and a diary at all times and I am forever writing short instructional pieces for my own benefit to guide my work. Therefore I’m a writer of all sorts of things at all times, including most importantly when I’m reading. I read like a writer and I write like a reader. I write as if I’m interpreting the world for the first time, afresh. A writer who doesn’t read is like a song-writer or a composer who doesn’t listen to music: an absurd relation. The other obvious reason why a writer might read is to learn the craft of writing. A less obvious reason is that if you’re going to be original you must have some idea of the field out of which your originality will glow in all its fullness. You wouldn’t want to repeat ideas of others out of ignorance.
I’ve been a poet longer than I’ve been a fiction writer. I had poems published as a teenager. In my early twenties I bought two anthologies for every novel. I read extensively. Poetry is a great base to construct fiction from. The poetic impulse is at the source of my originality. I even refer to poetry in the wider sense as creation, original literary creation. Poetry derives from metaphor and a new metaphor borrows known meaning from its constituent parts but by passing the expression through the forge of the mind it produces something new that is neither of its parts but somehow has leaped beyond the premises of the parts.
I write poetry one day a week on Friday, cleaning day. I clean the house in the morning, incubating the poem that I write that afternoon and evening. The poem is recognized by the poet in terms of emotion and idea, but the actual shape of the poem, the phrases to which it belongs and gains reality is actually a flow of psychic energy from the recesses of the self. The flow is continually interpreted into words. Too much manipulation cuts off the inspiration and yet at all times a poem is a literary artefact requiring shape and form to reach its threshold of intelligence and beauty. Between the pattern and the flow of language the happy accidents of the composer and originator happen. The pattern provokes the unconscious, keeping the door open so that the howls and songs of stone, the illumination and the vision can escape and be secured by the poet in words on the paper.
So perhaps, I’m a poet overtly one day out of seven on cleaning day and incidentally a poet every night of the week when I dream. Writing poetry is dreaming in reverse. I don’t mean to suggest that when writing a poem that the dream runs backwards. Dreams may return perpetually but they don’t run backwards; they might be characterized by weird spatial shifts and displacements but they still follow time’s arrow, which would suggest and provide evidence for the theory that time is the first reality of human perception, interminable and ceaseless. What I mean to say is that writing poetry is dreaming in reverse in the following sense that when we dream we experience a sense of out-of-bodiness-other-worldliness and then bring it to reality by trying to make sense of it with words. Poetry starts with the words trying to make sense of it and ends by producing a language artefact and artefact of thought that when read leads us out-of-the-body-into-other-worldliness. The landscape inhabited by the author, the writer and the poet.