A few days ago I wrote and posted a poem. It dealt, narrowly, with a contemplated stroke. More broadly, I suppose more deeply too, it is the certain fact of my one day death that I interrogate.
It is a big question, or set of questions, for me. I am sure it is for others too.
My feelings were pressing, my need to express them was strong. Poetry was the needed medium.
This morning I awoke (still alive), moved limbs (no motor stroke) and opened a volume of poetry. The book fell open at this poem of Emily Dickenson, a poem I had not previously known. I read the work (no central stroke) and understood Emily had addressed similar questions.
“This Consciousness that is aware”
This Consciousness that is aware
Of Neighbors and the Sun
Will be the one aware of Death
And that itself alone
Is traversing the interval
And most profound experiment
Appointed unto Men-
How adequate unto itself
Its properties shall be
Itself unto itself and None
Shall make discovery.
Adventure most unto itself
The Soul condemned to be-
Attended by a single Hound
Its own identity.
After reading and considering, I recalled how Death (Emily always capitalises and personifies her erotic forces) is the subject, her opposite actor, in many, many poems. Many poems, but never too many. Such is the subject and such is the poet.
It was my great friend (and the greatest critic of this blog) who observed of my writing a couple of decades ago: “You realise, don’t you Howard, that everything you write is part of the process of coming to terms with your own death?”
*double-double like* particularly because this post is explicit and straightforward about its own identity as a poetic and philosophical meditation, and therefore as an honourable entry in A Writer’s Notebook. Which would be a better designation of your pieces and the website than its (and their) shoehorning into a publicity and public-relations exercise in self-advertising.
In the footsteps of Somerset Maugham, to whom your writing may be compared, and who offered some of the best advice about awareness and experience, both of the self- kind, in the development of a writer.