Friday, July 24, 2015

On Writing #67 : George Stanley

Writing Old Age
George Stanley

Old Age foresees an end, but need writing have an end in mind?

The end Old Age foresees is non-specific.  Old Age has no apprehension of the way it might end; it's just a thought, a persistent thought.  For the last year or so it's come to attach itself to whatever else may be happening, to insinuate itself into any other thought, or wrap around it.

So when Old Age thinks of himself (does a 'selfie' as he calls it), it's never without that sense of an ending being part of it.

But now Old Age is writing, and he goes back to his initial question, does his writing also have to imagine coming to an end?  And as if in obedience to an underlying intuition, his persistent thought of an end departs from the present moment and goes off sort of like a dog and lies in its corner.

It doesn't leave the scene, no, by no means, it keeps an eye on Old Age from its corner.

Writing answers the question: Sure, Old Age, writing will come to an end, this piece of writing we're engaged in now will come to an end, but that's never what's on my mind.  When I'm Writing, my sense is always one of beginning.  I'm on my way somewhere, somewhere I've never been, or have even imagined.  I'm beginning even if what I'm writing has already begun.

Whatever's already been written is past, even if it was just five seconds ago.  If there's something I'm writing, I only know it as the to-be-written, the way it's going.  What's on my mind, the mood I'm in, is one of beginning.  I lift my pen to begin the next sentence.

The next sentence:  I never think of old age.  I don't care about old age.

Wait!  I don't mean you, Old Age.  I care about you.  I've written poems about you, whole books.  But I can't live with thoughts like the ones you're describing, thoughts wrapped around other thoughts.  Sheesh!  Give it a rest!

What do you care about then, Writing?

I care about, I wait for, a true line.

A true line.  To hear it in language, bypassing thinking.  But lately I'm less able to do that.  My hearing has gone bad.  I admit it, for the last year or so, even though I want to write, I find myself thinking instead.  Sitting here, stuck, thinking, not writing.  My name is not just Writing.  It's Writing Old Age.

Yet you've been writing, writing sentences.

But the sentences are about thoughts.  And just like yours, Old Age, one thought inserts itself into another, or wraps around it.  I'm hoping for a true line, and a thought comes and lays itself out alongside a few random words I've written – like a dead body.

People are crying for the sentences!  But not for sentences about thoughts.

George Stanley [photo credit: Mark Mushet], born in San Francisco in 1934, emigrated to BC in 1971. He taught English in BC community colleges for twenty-six years, and has published eight books of poetry; the most recent are After Desire (2013) and North of California St. (2014), both from New Star Books. He lives in Vancouver.

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