Sunday, 13 March 2011

Sailing Through and Ploughing On: N M Browne


There are several things I like about lecturing : I earn a little extra cash ( and I mean a little), I get away from my desk, my dog and my laundry basket and it makes me think.
Last week a student confessed to being a farmer not a sailor. I must have looked particularly blank as she immediately explained that she was a farmer because she ploughs the furrow of her own life, her own feelings, her own familiar milieu. I was startled at first. It’s not an analogy I’d heard before and it seemed counter intuitive that someone of so little experience should focus on it so exclusively. Then I remembered: at nineteen I think that’s all I did. Back then I only wrote truly abysmal poetry inspired by my ‘A’ level texts: TS Eliot, John Donne and Gerard Manley Hopkins - an inevitably unhappy menage a trois. As you can imagine it was all about me, but with obscure references, sixteenth century vocabulary and sprung rhythm.
Is this a stage? Is it a function of that unhelpful adage ‘write what you know’ or do we as young writers believe that the function of ‘the artist’ is to transmute leaden adolescent angst into literary gold? Are we more inclined to narcissism then or are some of us always more inward looking?
I don’t know. I can only speak for myself,(still a narcissist then, ed.) I ditched the poetry around the same time I cut my Kate Bush hair, discovered that southerners had funny accents and ( horrifyingly) that I wasn’t that interesting. Maybe inward looking people have better furnished interior lives - more Corbusier then DFS - or, to switch back to the original metaphor, fascinating farms. My farm is notably poorly managed and has never yielded anything more inspiring than the common spud and a spud is still a spud even if you dress it up as ‘Gratin Dauphinois’. It is just as well that when I took up writing again many years later, it was as a sailor.
These days, in my writing if not in my blogging, I travel as far from myself as I can get, journeying back in time, or sideways to alternate universes, switching gender, age and species. I don’t explore the depths, but the ocean is wide and unpredictable and you never know what you will find beyond the curve of the world and that has to be better than spuds.

7 comments:

Penny Dolan said...

Never heard of this writing concept before, but it's a good one. I'm definitely one of the sailors. Would hate to write about my life. I want to be somewhere exciting when I'm at my desk.

Charlie Butler said...

Back then I only wrote truly abysmal poetry inspired by my ‘A’ level texts: TS Eliot, John Donne and Gerard Manley Hopkins - an inevitably unhappy menage a trois. As you can imagine it was all about me, but with obscure references, sixteenth century vocabulary and sprung rhythm.

I think we may be twins!

Beth Kemp said...

Speaking as a sixth-form English teacher, it's definitely a phase. There have been times when students have shown me dazzlingly imaginative poetry of their own (envy of one's students is not an attractive trait...), but often it's inward-looking and you can tell who they've been reading.

Bloc hornet said...

it's good that your getting a few things out of lecturing

Facebook Display Pictures said...

It's good that your lecturing gets you away from your desk sometimes, that is a major problem for me with working with computers.

It's important to get away from the desk for a while.

vitamin d supplements said...

I agree with the above statement, its vital to get away and into the real world once in a while to do a mental refresh

primrose valley caravans said...

Could not agree more, I am an accountant so constantly looking at spreadsheets on a computer, it gets a bit crazy after a while...soooo many numbers!

Regular breaks and get aways are a must!