Monday, 7 January 2013

If you can't improve on silence...

It's that time to look back on the past year and consider the coming one. The biggest project I was involved in, in 2012, was the Arc Ventures tour of 10 poets from 8 different countries around 28 UK venues in three weeks over October and November, reaching over 1000 people. It was the culmination of approximately six months' work. Exciting, fascinating, enriching and exhausting.

However, for my own creative work it was far quieter: I wrote a bit. Edited more. Read more. Retreated for a writing week. I am coming to the end of stage one of the sea project that has been absorbing me for the past few years, trying to look at it from different perspectives rather than the close up creation one. The impetus to write anything new is low.

One of the highlights of last year was a week-long silent retreat. An expansive and thrilling experience of resettling into myself, a reaquaintance with that part of me that seeks connection: with other people, with my environment and with my 'self'. I barely wrote through the week, just a few notes.

There is an obvious connection, to me, between these two points: silence and stillness can both engender ideas and let them go. Writing to process ideas, emotions and connections is something I undertake without too much questioning. It is how I am. Just as a child, I used to make sculptures and pictures from the shells, pebbles, twigs and bits and pieces I found around me. It was, as writing still is, my play - as well as my way of being in the world.

As a child one of the rules of our household was if you can't improve on the silence, don't. Harsh, perhaps, but more and more I come back to it, in writing terms. Considering all the words written out there, the world is a very very noisy place. And noise is far more bearable if it is melodious, or rhythmical: I prefer hammering over a chainsaw, a curlew to a great tit, lyric to narrative poetry. But most of all I prefer silence.

Where I live, on windless days I become aware of the deep silence around the house. Like blackness, it can be opening and limitless, also containing. Neutral. Not just a blank canvas, but a score in itself, that deserves a considered harmony, or counterpoint, layered upon it. And that requires deep listening, patience... while keeping rhythm and momentum. Stillness is, in the main, only apparent.

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