The strongest attachment I ever had with a group of writers (or genre) was the Beat writers. I had always been into poetry and had written poetry since I was around ten years of age (that I can remember), but one day in my late teens I decided to take a day off school and just laid about the house. I had the house to myself, which was a rare luxury, and I was flipping the channels on t.v. Tedious soap operas, a boring midday movie, variety shows, blah blah blah – until I came across a documentary about Jack Kerouac.
Straight away my ears pricked up, as I was hearing wonderful prose and seeing footage of Big Sur and American cityscapes. I was captivated and intrigued, listening intently, taking notes and making plans to take a trip to my local library that very day.
That’s when my love affair started with the Beat generation and in particular, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. I read everything I could, watched all the documentaries I could get my hands on and experimented with my writing over the years. I discovered music and movies that were made by people influenced by the Beats, such as Henry Rollins, Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Laurie Anderson, Tom Waits, Morphine and Directors such as David Cronenberg.
Following the philosophy of six degrees of separation, I was linked into Jazz, folk music, Gertrude Stein, Anais Nin and Henry Miller, Kafka, the music of Debussy, Schubert and on and on. That’s the wonderful thing about an enquiring mind and the love of reading and research – they can lead you down mysterious paths and laneways that you might never have been exposed to. All these things fleshed out the creative monster in me, and made me hungry for more.
When I was around twelve years old I was writing a lot of poetry, albeit a lot of childish poems with themes focusing on nature. I was staying at my Aunt’s holiday house on the beach at Seaspray for a couple of weeks and was inspired by the lovely surroundings. I wrote a poem with five stanzas and was quite proud of myself, so I showed it to her. She was a cranky old thing so I suppose it was my fault for giving it to her to critique – and critique she did! First she didn’t like the fact that it didn’t rhyme. I said it wasn’t supposed to. She said that poetry was supposed to rhyme. I was crushed and confused. Then she said that it didn’t have any rhythm. At that young age I didn’t know what she meant.
I was angry and hurt and felt for a long time that maybe I didn’t have what it took to be a poet, or a writer. Over the next few years I read a lot more poetry and realized that my stuff was ok and that I needed to develop a thicker skin. (Easier said than done, of course.) When I went through puberty I started writing the usual lovelorn, flowery crap, and tried to be deep and meaningful with stories about abortion, drugs, school, broken homes etc.
In my early twenties I went through a dark phase so my writing plummeted into a gothic whirlpool of angsty rants, with lines such as ‘Lost in the velvet vortex’ and ‘Stumbling with my arms outstretched’. After I gave birth to my son, my writing became more spiritual as my world had opened up. It was like the whole universe presented itself to me and I had stepped into the realm of adulthood for real this time, so my writing reflected this expanded view – like an all encompassing creative compulsion. At times I had to reign myself in!
The only thing was, with having a child and being a sole parent, there wasn’t much time for writing, due to having to trudge along to a day job to pay the bills and so on. Through snatches of time I wrote, in my journal (as I have since I was twelve) and started several novels, lots of poems, articles etc. When my son was in his teens I started researching philosophy and the history of religion.
I was going to write a non fiction piece about religion from a psychological perspective, or the psychological motivations behind the evolution of religion, and religion versus spirituality. After three hundred pages of written notes and months of research, it dawned on me that it couldn’t have hurt to have had some kind of education in that department. Even though I was ‘educating’ myself informally through the research, I felt overwhelmed and lost confidence in the project.
That wasn’t the kind of writing I had always imagined myself doing, anyway. Besides, it made me feel so far removed from my Beat heroes! I always wanted to slip into their collective skin and BE one of them. It’s only now, when I look back, that even though I wasn’t a part of their world, I did live a life akin to theirs, in a fashion.
I’ve spent countless hours in cafes, bars, parties, restaurants, parks etc talking with interesting people about a multitude of fascinating things. I’ve been to poetry jams and concerts, smoked joints with crazy strangers, shared my writing with other like minded people, been a barefoot hippy and marched for nuclear disarmament.
I’ve been down and out and broke, in the depths of despair and then illuminated with the joy of inspiration, love and complete bliss. I’ve wrestled with demons – mine and those who belonged to others and then fell to my knees in the presence of angels, slack jawed in complete wonder when unconditional kindness was bestowed upon me. The only thing I have to keep reminding myself is to keep writing, no matter what. No excuses, no wailing like a baby that the world is closing in on me and bitching that the time to kick against the pricks has come and gone.
No more sighing and bleating that I’m too old and worrying about what the world will think of me if I don’t conform and churn out love sick horse shit that is expected of middle aged women past their prime.
The fire in my belly is the nest of the Phoenix.
Time to Rise!