I didn’t sleep much over the summer. As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I spent lots of the night tweeting, and ended up getting in a state every time I tried to go to bed. I also stopped reading. For the first time, ever, I didn’t have a couple of books on the go and an imaginary cast hanging around in my head.
Posts Tagged ‘poetry and prose’
When I was a child, I wanted to be Beth from Little Women. I had forgotten just how much I wanted to be Beth, from Little Women, until I was flicking through a quotation dictionary and stumbled over this quote:
“I am angry nearly every day of my life….but I have learned not to show it; and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do so.”
(Chapter 8, Louisa Alcott)
For anyone who has not read Little Women, it’s the story of four sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and written in the 19th century. I can only remember the plot in fragments; but it is hung on the girls’ characters, and their presence, for me, persists. Meg is the eldest and most sensible; Jo, a hare-brained creative; Amy, blonde and pretty; and Beth, goodness incarnate.
“Friday I tasted life. It was a vast morsel. A circus passed the house – still I feel the red in my mind though the drums are out. The lawn is full of south and the odors tangle, and I hear to-day for the first time the river in the tree”.
Emily Dickinson, from a letter to Mrs J.G. Holland, May 1866.
I wanted to find a snappy quote for Friday, but I fell over this.
Make of it, what you will: Emily Dickinson defies intepretation, and I have resisted the temptation to google her words into meaning.
She might be referring to food – which opens up the whole idea of exploring the tastes and is a lesson, for me, in itself…
Or she might be talking about life, in which case, I concur.
It is, indeed, a “vast morsel”.
I went to a School of Life Sunday Sermon, and heard a neuroscientist, called David Eagleman, speak. If I’d got round to any pre-event research, I would have gained a little insight into the stuff he’d be talking about; but I was, instead, hooked by a one word title.
Anything that might illuminate a concept I grapple with, on a daily basis, is guaranteed to grab my attention.
I love quotes. There is something immensely satisfying in the encapsulation of a thought in a few cleverly chosen words; in the sudden click of recognising an emotion – or snatching an insight – which helps me to work out where I am.
Like an unexpected reflection, quotes seem to be a way of knowing ourselves – through hearing another – and reaffirming what we do (or don’t) believe. They are a reminder – when I instinctively presume that “no one else feels like me” – that, actually, we quite often feel the same.
And have for years.
This fragment goes with my fragments…
I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam uti chelidon – O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih
T.S. Eliot. The Waste Land. V. What the Thunder Said. 423-433
Reading is, by all accounts, a dying art.
I hope not.
Pleasure aside, the great thing about literature is it proves that people have been feeling the same for years and years and years.
The context keeps changing and the form of expression may differ – but human emotions are a constant.
The Poetry and Prose tag proves my point.
It’s also nice to know that other people feel the same as you do.
Depression. It’s a loosely used term. It’s bandied around a bit, used to add a touch of drama. I’m guilty of the charge. I’d forgotten that drama feels far too draining when you’re depressed. I’ve become blasé with my terminology: you don’t take depression lightly.
It’s bitterly cruel.
It’s totally indiscriminate.
It’s an emotional and physical and mental hijacking.
“There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons —
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes —
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are —
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact’ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
“But careful, careful! Don’t get excited. You know what happens when you get excited and exalted, don’t you?….Yes….And then, you know how you collapse like a pricked balloon, don’t you?…Having no staying power….Yes, exactly….So, no excitement. This is going to be a quiet, sane fortnight.”
Extract from Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight
A lot of any emotion can feel a little too much.
It’s better to keep everything calm, stable and on the same level – even when the emotion’s something good like excitement.
We’ve been repressing things for years. Maybe it’s linked into civilisation coming along and writing the social rules. Or, maybe it’s just part of the human condition; an emotional version of defence.
“This is the Hour of Lead—
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow—
First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go—”
Extract from Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson didn’t mince her words. It’s bizarre to think that, even 100 years ago, people felt like I do. Strangely reassuring, particularly given the subject matter – imprisonment and isolation.
A prison gets to be a friend,
Between its ponderous face
And ours a kinsmanship express;
And in its narrow eyes
We come to look with gratitude
For the appointed beam
It deal us, sated as our food
And hungered for the same.
“’We perished, each alone.’” – Virigina Woolf
Maybe isolation is so scary because it’s the closest that we get to death – while we’re still alive. Maybe it’s so horrific and terrifying because it’s the delicate difference between life – with other people – and death – when we’re on our own.
“It’s all right. Tomorrow I’ll be pretty again, tomorrow I’ll be happy again, tomorrow, tomorrow…..”
Jean Rhys, ‘Good Morning, Midnight’
If you’re a member of the tomorrow brigade, stop now.
Tomorrow will never come.
It took me fifteen years of waiting for tomorrow to learn this.
Tomorrow, I won’t throw up. Tomorrow, it will be okay to eat. Tomorrow, I’ll start again. Tomorrow, I’ll feel different….
“I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it—–
A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot
My featureless, fine
Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?——-”
Sylvia Plath, extract from Lady Lazarus
Sylvia Plath scares me.
I could hear my eating disorder in her voice.
I could feel the anorexia in the taunts and the mockery; in the red hot anger and the reckless self-destruction.
When I first got ill, this was what it was like.
If the seasonal showings of Big are anything to go by, there is something fascinating about the idea of a child trapped in an adult’s body. The ‘what happens when a child’s mind finds itself in an adult’s form’ question has clearly occurred to other people. It evidently offers some enduring comic currency.
Unless, of course, you’re the one stuck in the wrong body.