With a Little Help from my Friends
I'm writing this post to pay deference to a number of people, to whom I personally owe a good deal with respect not only to my own 'survival' in this big world of blogging and social networking, but also the development of my skills as a writer and in particular as a poet.
I have spent just over a year immersed in this amazing and exciting environment, but I am painfully aware of how much challenge it actually presents to most if not all of us; by this I mean it is not so easy for one's ego to survive out here. As in every profession, it's not a 'given' that we will succeed. We cannot assume that we will write our best seller first time out and become the next J K Rowling or Ted Hughes overnight!
In the Beginning
My journey started at the beginning of February 2011, with a certain gung-ho approach to the fact I was about to start potentially baring my literary limitations to the world at large (I know most of us, who have any awareness of the enormity of the potential readership out there, in reality, know they will reach only a minuscule proportion of them, if any at all). That fact aside, I did not set out to become well-known (not consciously anyway). I was, I felt, playing with it; experimenting; thinking that I would probably get bored with it, drop it and get on with my other creative interests (video editing, video poetry, music). It has instead grown into, if not an obsession, a totally absorbing passion; one from which, it seems, there is no escape!
It was poet, Kona Macphee, with whom I had a one-to-one poetry surgery in January 2010, who set me on the right path, only eight months after I had made my first tottering steps into writing poetry. The simple but memorable things she taught me in that one hour session helped me a great deal. My later regular involvement in her own brilliant blog, that elusive clarity, which she started at the beginning of 2011, was my introduction not only to blogging but also to the world of literature and writing life in general. Kona is a Master of her art and such an intelligent, but eminently approachable and down to earth human being. In her blog, she reveals her intellect and her ability to express the processes of the mind and the frailty of the human condition. In the past year, I haven't often encountered anyone that approaches her literary skill in this respect.
It is to a small group of poets (known as the GRPG), who came together almost, but not quite, accidentally in the summer of 2011, through our contact on Twitter, that I owe a great deal. For becoming loyal friends, even though, at the time of writing, I have only met half of them in the flesh, somehow I have learned not only a whole lot more about writing poetry, but also about how very important mutual respect is for friendship to flourish and the desire to support each other to prevail. Were it not for our sometimes amusingly random, sometimes meaningful exchanges, both on Twitter, Facebook and in our blogs; exchanges in poetry that, it has to be said, are occasionally quite profound and reveal a great deal about our respective psyches, I am convinced that our friendships might not have come close to being what they are now. Had it not been for these introductions to each other in writing - rather like it would have been maybe two hundred and fifty years ago, when communications and travel were far less easy - then our meeting of minds would have existed on a much less secure footing.
Were it not for Twitter's habit of removing tweets that are much older than a month, entering hash tag GRPG might reveal more about us. But we know who we are and I hope more of you will get to know about us in due course when we publish our book of poetry. In the meantime, my respects to all of those lovely, delightful and supportive individuals who make up the GRPG. You will find all of them here, in the drop-down menu under 'poets'.
The New World Creative Union
Recently, another larger group of creative souls has been... well, created! It is the brain-child of Natasha Head and Roger Allen Baut (if I have excluded anyone from this credit, please shout at me!) and named the New World Creative Union. It was a pleasant surprise to find myself invited to become a member of this union two months ago. It is a Facebook Closed Group, which, at the time of writing, has 243 members. It also has its own blog, including its Directory of Artists, with their individual biographies. Representing the interests not only of Literature, but also of the Audio and Visual arts, the NWCU's stated aim is, and I quote: "Sharing the work of artists around the world in a free and caring environment. Leave your egos at the door, leave your work on our wall and welcome to the New World Creative Union". It strives to encourage and enable the promotion of painters, sculptors, writers, poets, photographers, film-makers, musicians, actors, dancers and interactive media; in fact creative souls in any art-form.
Perhaps, for me, the most important quality of the NWCU (as well as the GRPG) is that they are supportive; encouraging artists to appreciate the work of others; positively and honestly to go there to view, read and appraise their work. I have come to believe that it is not until you are truly able to do this, to make an real effort to appreciate the work of others, that you will be able to get your own work in perspective; to develop it and make progress.
Criticise me... please!
One thing I do, sometimes in fear of offending, is to point out grammatical and spelling errors in other works and I am surprised at the generous responses that I get from this. If there is one thing I would ask of anyone who reads my writings it is this: please don't be afraid to critique it, to edit it, to point out spelling, grammatical or word usage errors! I ask this because I am, like a few other writers I know, not my own best editor. In fact, I'll bet you a pound to a pinch of salt that soon after publishing this post, I will find an error in it! See if you can beat me to it; or tell me it's too damned long - one of my other weaknesses :-/.
Reading and viewing the work of others is something I have learned in the course of the past two years through listening to and reading others and countless engaging conversations with fellow writers and poets around the world. There is admittedly always the fear that one's own authenticity could, in theory, be compromised by reading and potentially being influenced by viewing or hearing too much of other people's work (I think it was Lord Byron who once quoted that the only way to be truly original is to avoid reading anything else at all!), but I firmly believe that, provided you remain true to your own unique convictions and inherent inspirations, this should never happen. You can be inspired by the work of others, but allow only your sixth sense to be programmed by that inspiration, not necessarily the work itself.
For what it's worth, I believe it is not possible to be truly original; there is a need, in writing anything that will be worth reading, to draw on existing rationale, to relate to the human condition, to prevailing and classical philosophy, thought and experience and to all sorts of other influence, both literary and audio-visual, in order for your writing to be valid. It will still be unique, because you are a unique product of your gene pool and your environment, in all that this word means.
Poetry enables a form of communication that sometimes rarely sees the light in our everyday lives; that seeks out feelings, emotions; addresses fears, uncertainties, nay even hangups; brings to the consciousness of many who read it the ability to see another perspective on this sometimes astonishingly complex thing in life, which we call the human condition.
I salute all those who aspire to both write and read it with conscientious effort; to open their minds to alternative solutions for the human race. To all those who have been generous enough with their time and attention to read my scribblings and make meaningful comment, a very big thank you.