Thursday, September 10, 2009

Episode 353: Why I Write

Last night, I stayed up late to finish reading a back issue of The Warwick Review. In it, there was a piece of prose by Christopher Burns, entitled 'Readings'. I wouldn't have mentioned it here, except that this particular paragraph gave me pause:

'She is not sure if this is quiet admiration or light sarcasm. Alice is no Auden and she knows it. She fears that her published work will not survive her death. It will be forgotten, pulped, a footnote in academic studies of the age, nothing more. Often she feels that artists are driven by a need for an immortality that she is unlikely to achieve.'

It was that final sentence that stuck with me in particular. The thing is, I don't consciously think about literary immortality when I write my poems. Most of the time, anyway. I'm under no illusions about what the proliferation of contemporary literature is going to do for the chances of my work being remembered, years from now. To put it bluntly, I know I'm competent, someday I may even be very good, but greatness, I suspect, is going to forever be out of reach. I'm no Auden either. Yet there is a small part of me that nonetheless subconsciously hungers, longs for my words to be read and remembered. After all, I like putting words together, but I also like knowing someone else appreciates the effort! In other news, I've given up hope on trying to finish the Italian and Spanish courses, so I'm just going to go through the core lessons for each unit, and that'll have to do for a basic grounding. I would also like it on record that The CW is officially my favourite TV network for the foreseeable future, as I think the remake of Melrose Place is trashtastic, although markedly weaker than Gossip Girl (and Ashlee Simpson-Wentz is by no means an actress). Now if The Vampire Diaries is of similar or better quality, that'll seal the deal.


Dan said...

I suspect that 'immortality' is something that can't enter into yr calculations when writing - the process of composition is an engagement with the present moment, and thinking about the future - the judging eyes of everyone ever to come on yr work - can only be paralysing. You *can't* consciously think about it; the writing has to come first, and, when you've gathered enough laurels that you can afford to rest on them for a minute or two, then posterity can be given a thought to. (Not to say one doesn't give a guilty thought to it occasionally oneself...)

Ian said...

You are absolutely right about it being paralysing. I wonder whether any of the "greats" we read today ever gave a thought to whether their work would outlive them?