Why write? Mere promise of immeasurably massive skies.

The urge to write - the wings within

The urge to write – the wings within

Writing is one of the most beautiful expressions of who we are. Writing is pure self-expression, an ordering of the mind, the making of patterns and rhythms that seem to breathe with us and create something that is of us and yet becomes its own without us, living in the world in a different sphere that is no longer our brain but a connective dart weaving into other minds, influencing other lives. Writing as a craft makes those darts with subtle precision and powerful energy.

Jennifer Lean is a Cape Town poet and writer who is internet shy in this crazy, noisy world – and so she has these quiet moments of brilliance that catch in the mind like tiny stitches in the tapestry of a busy life. She doesn’t know how to share her work with the world – so I have decided to do it for her. And here and there, now and then, I will bring you a Jennifer Lean poem that will prove that the human mind is infinitely astonishing and, for some, set in rarefied airs we can only admire.

~ Why write ~

The written word is a
reaching out.
It is competitively squawking, bulge-blue-veined,
brittle-boned, fluff-bare baby birds
within the nest, stretching scrawny necks,
reaching always upward,
enthralled by the thrill of self-sound,
indignantly demanding
substance for the throat,
something solid in a
nebulous, insubstantial world
of unfathomed, as yet
unfathomable needs.
It is the right to be
angrily hungry
for acknowledgement of fears in the face of
daunting, dizzying expectations of
flight

for it is a huge leap,
a potentially painful fall.
It is mere promise of
immeasurably massive skies
of movement.

It is an inchoate compulsion,
the written word,
a reaching out
from the infinite reach
of irresistibly untested
wings within.

~ Jennifer Lean ~

The balance between creative desire and the moment of execution.

Balance is art - the exact 'enough'.

Balance is art – the exact ‘enough’.

I’ve introduced Jennifer Lean to you before. So here is another quivering yet precise observation from her eloquent pen. As creative people – whether artists, writers, designers, musicians – we have all felt that curious sense of anticipation before we begin the birth of something entirely new: the burst of excitement, anticipation, that tingle of apprehension yet urge to experience the process of creation, the emergence of a dream, that perfect moment before a single drop of perspiration when everything is in balance, in harmony, in tune. That moment when you know something magical is about to happen and it will be the perfect ‘enough’ to change your world in a matter of moments.

~Enough~
by Jennifer Lean

Enough is not honoured. It is ignored
and therefore hard to know
when it arrives.
The weight of it in the palm
is gently neither here nor there
simply, subtly positioned
between too little and too much.
It sits somewhere
in unacknowledged neglect
between having had and wanting more.
It is that silence between having the thought
and uttering it
the spaces between stanzas of poems
between the visitation of meaning
and giving it shape.
It is fingers that are
perfectly poised
suspended in expectant motionlessness
before music emerges.

~~~

Most perfect description of the human voice – ever.

Sometimes there are people in this world who understand language, words, form and creation better than others. I have many favourite writers and poets that fit into this description. But no one more so than Jennifer Lean, a Cape Town poet whose words will leave you breathless. Somehow, in the fewest words possible she manages to cut you to the bone, strip away all pretenses and defenses, and lay bare the human condition. Her point, sharp as a fencer’s blade, is always made with perfect weight and delivery in the last line. She reaches a core in a reader’s heart, soul and spirit in a way that is indescribable to us mortals. But you will know it when you read it. I will simply leave you to digest.

What must stay

I live dutifully in my sunlight liquid spaces.
Daily I rinse traces of myself away.
Wash imbibed memories down drains.
Sometimes I baulk. Watch for days
as a feather brought in on a breeze
whispers its way along stretches
of my carpet. Watch spillages of books
heap where they hope not to be
in the way. Am seduced by
the singular perfection of a fossilised gecko
on a windowsill.

I watch the sooty stain above my fireplace
grow year by year.
Some signs of what one cannot see
must not be wiped away.

~~~~

And then this extraordinary comment on Salli Terri’s voice:

From this to those

(Salli Terri, Bachianas Brasileiras No 5 – Aria, Heitor Villa-Lobos)

Salli Terri’s voice is unearthly.
It gathers up the scorch
of these fireside coals,
this sky, indigo
beyond the colour,
this inscrutable substance
of moon.
It gathers up all yearning,
this sound within wings, and flies.
It stretches itself infinitely
upward, infinitely outward,
becomes thin, ever thinner,
senses-shattering,
eventually evaporating
into those unknowable silences
where the human voice
implodes.

~~~~

And here is that music that inspired these beautiful words: Salli Terri

Listen – and read. It will blow you away!

War Poets Remembered

While cleaning out my bookcase (a mammoth task as you can imagine) I came across an old book of poetry by Rupert Brooke which had been given to me by my mother when I was eight years old. For a moment I was lost in time remembering that book – old and tattered even then – and how it had affected my love of poetry; that curious lilt and flow of language that has fascinated me all my life.

And I remembered how I loved that book, how I would trace the words with my eyes, hungering for understanding, awestruck at the way words could be brought together and knitted to create all kinds of meaning and message, how language could frighten, shock, make my blood run cold. Make me laugh.

This drug continued on into my teens – and I fell upon the darker side of poetry, that which was so eloquently reflected in the war poetry that came out of that most tragic of all wars, the First World War. It was my first brush with protest, with denigration of authority and the stupidity of violence. Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke. Their haunting words have stayed with me forever.

Wilfred Owen (1893 – 1918)

The Sentry (excerpts)

The sentry’s body; then, his rifle, handles

Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.

We dredged him up, for killed, until he whined

‘O sir, my eyes – I’m blind – I’m blind, I’m blind!’

Coaxing, I held a flame against his lids

And said if he could see the least blurred light

He was not blind; in time he’d get all right.

I try not to remember these things now.

Let dread hark back for one word only: how

Half listening to that sentry’s moans and jumps,

And the wild chattering of his broken teeth,

Renewed most horribly whenever crumps

Pummelled through the roof and slogged the air beneath –

Through the dense din, I say, we heard him shout

‘I see your lights!’ But ours had long died out.

Siegfried Sassoon 1886 – 1967)

Counter-Attack (excerpt)

Mute in the clamour of shells he watched them burst

Spouting dark earth and wire with gusts from hell,

While posturing giants dissolved in drifts of smoke.

He crouched and flinched, dizzy with galloping fear,

Sick for escape, – loathing the strangled horror

And butchered, frantic gestures of the dead.

Rupert Brooke (1887 – 1915) 

The Soldier (excerpt)

If I should die, think only this of me,

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England. There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;

A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,

Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

I think it was this last poem, the sad glory of a patriot’s words, that stirred me the most. And while Owen’s and Sassoon’s poetry held me in horrified thrall, it was the beautiful, flowing words of Rupert Brooke that made me a writer. Perhaps it is the mixture of romance and madness that inspires writers? I only know that if you read these works, feel their emotive power, you will appreciate their dedication to the right word, balance, tone, weight, and rhythm of language.

These words inspired me at a very early age. What was the earliest influence that motivated you to write?