EE Cummings said something like a poet is only a poet for a few minutes in their life; the rest of the time they are a would be poet. I have no idea if that’s something he actually said. I wrote it down sometime in 2019 and attributed it to him. I didn’t list a source. Now searching the internet, I can’t find any passages that resemble what I’ve noted. Did I make it up? All I have left of that moment I can’t remember is the note I left myself on my phone. Reading it again now, four years later, I don’t know what drew me to it. I can only say that it stopped me when I came it across it today.
I am only the writer of this blog, this series of broadsides, these quiet whispers into the void, in the moments that I sit down at my desk and focus my attention on an entry until the time I’ve finished and moved on to anything else. The rest of the time I’m merely a collector of notes and observations. A would be writer, according to my Cummings quote. I catalog fragments of half formed thoughts in the hopes that I will one day return to them, act on them, include them in the magnum opus that I’ll never write and nobody would ever read. Which raises an interesting question: does a writer need readers? The answer is probably no.
There is something essential about the act of recording yourself for posterity. It’s an act of defiance, a firm stance against the passing of time. We do it to be seen, remembered by future generations, remembered by ourselves as the people we once were and have changed into. Nobody has to see these timestamps and fragments for them to have value. It’s like a vast library we’re building, with endless rooms and hidden spaces. There is no key that unlocks any specific meaning. For most of us, there is no passive entertainment we can offer to make it all appealing or worthwhile to someone else. Nevertheless we persist, all in our own peculiar way.
Notes and memories of notes also feel like a montage of images in hindsight. There are seeds of ideas – inane, rambling, reductive, idiotic, vainglorious, seminal, personally important, neurotic, unreliable – that bubble to the surface then fade just as quickly. When stitched together they read like avant-garde overindulgence. A weird mixture of incongruent thoughts bleeding and bumping into each other. Jump cuts devoid of contextual grounding.
“The [TV] picture was so sharp and clear it made reality look muddy and out of focus” is a line from Processed Cheese by Stephen Wright that I wrote down in 2020 because it was a line I wished I’d written. “They needed a psychopathic god to worship, so they recruited a nobody and stood him on the high altar. The great religions have been at it for millennia” is from Kingdom Come by JG Ballard and I wrote down for the same reason, I think around the same time. I also noted that “Zeke will follow Phil’s path and see him as a hapless hero; a Marlow tracking Kurtz or Willard tracking Kurtz. We see Phil in the present day and as imagined in flashback by Zeke as he follows the trail and interviews people who’ve come in contact with him,” which was a structural concept for something I was writing at the time, and I’m considering revisiting now because I didn’t follow my own note. Sometimes we follow the logic of the piece wherever it leads, then try to claw it back with a more discerning eye. Sometimes I fail miserably.
I noted that something I was calling the “tunnel piece” was about “groups of people living in a series of tunnels, with no knowledge of the world outside of that system,” which both sounds somewhat like Plato and stillborn at the same time. There were no other notes on that less than fabulous idea. “Giving oxygen to nonsense just feeds it” feels self-evident and not worth writing down, “Striving is a constant to just be and get by” is a kernel that could have been a jumping off point for something else, maybe unrelated. “The place he’s going, out there, is desolate, violent, and lonely all the same time; a mix of feelings created by over-stimulated boredom” was a note I did use for the same piece mentioned above. The imagery still resonates with me.
Sometimes I look back through notes on my phone or notebooks to remember and start me on something new. Sometimes I just write something I think is funny and call it a day. Sometimes I’m very intentional about the way something flows and how it connects with itself at different points along the way. Sometimes I do anything to avoid sitting down and focusing my attention on this. Most times I’m creating a little window into this character and hoping you’ll see it for what I think it is.