I had a phone conversation with a friend this morning. We were talking about a situation that I happen to be going through, that involves me making more concessions than I’d like to make. I am being asked to conform to a rubric that allows no movement and no freedom of expression; that ties me to someone else’s agenda (an agenda I find dubious at best); that puts me at the mercy of forces against which I can make no reply. We decided, in the course of our conversation, that for better or for worse, this is the way the world works. To live in the world is to be beset by forces that extinguish creativity, liveliness, and life. As such, dealing with these forces, learning to cope with them, is an invaluable life-skill, a prerequisite to actually living an accomplished life. For all the up-beat rhetoric of the conversation, I still felt a good amount of discomfort, some of which was almost physical. I feel like this situation has covered me in mud, and it seems like scraping off the mud might be a long, laborious, and rather pain-staking operation. I think that many of us who have chosen to engage the world (not all artists do) have to deal with these feelings quite frequently; it’s easy to develop a martyr complex, because it often seems that few people are willing to be individuals and to buck the system when necessary. If living in the world often consists of scraping off mud (or moss, or crud, or what have you), how do we create things that quicken, facilitate, and complete this process? What are the kind of poems that scrape off mud?
The answer has to change, of course, from person to person; different temperaments require different antidotes, different aesthetics different elixirs. I believe that this Festival, that I am blogging for, is most likely acting as an elixir for those participating. I am feeling the vibes, even across the pond, even in Philadelphia (or, as it is known in the US press, Kill-adelphia). Watching some of the videos that have been posted on this blog, I lean back in my chair, close my eyes and picture myself as part of the scene. I am not sure why the UK has always held such a fascination for me; why, from Keats to Jagger to Hanif Kureishi, I am drawn to artists that were born and/or raised in the UK. In any case, the simple imaginative act of closing my eyes and picturing London has enabled me to scrape off at least some of the mud that has accrued to my spirit, body, and consciousness. I would imagine that my posts are less read than those of participants who are actually, physically in London. This seems inevitable. Nevertheless, it gives me peace of mind to know that perhaps a few folks here and there may be listening to me, may be, as they say, feelin it. It is a reminder that it is not only poems that can act as antidotes; events, such as this festival, are useful for replenishing spiritual energy and purifying basic creative drives.
I think I have mentioned before, the notion that in the context of a festival such as this one, one is able to transcend the ego, and feel it merge with something greater. Aren’t all of our best moments (creative, sexual, or otherwise) comprised of this? Self-hood, as Buddhists know, is quite a slog. Many people seem to drown in their own egos. I speak as one who has fallen into that trap from time to time. Now, however, in circumstances that are rather challenging (me in Philly, the festival in London), I am trying to construct the kind of bridge that any creative person could go over. I am being as absolutely transparent as I can be. Candidly, my aesthetic sympathies are with the avant-garde; I do not know how many of you are either avant-gardists or have some sympathetic appreciation of the avant-garde. Yet I feel that in this context, that doesn’t matter so much. I feel that the simple human warmth of a speaking voice is what I would like to achieve in these posts. Yet, of course, it is not really so much about “I”, more about (I hope) “we”. How far away is an ocean away? How far away is London from the States? It would be presumptious of me to say. As I am writing, I am aware that the mud of the last few days is beginning to dissipate. That is enough to convince me that blogging here is a worthwhile endeavor, the Atlantic be damned. I hope that those of you who venture to read this feel the same way.