February 15, 2009 § 3 Comments
“— Sweet fiction, in which bravado and despair beckon from a cold panache in which the protected essential self suffers flashes of its existence to be immortalized by a writing self that is incapable of performing its actions without mixing our essence with what is false.”
This is Frank Bidart, from “Borges and I,” a poem in his book Desire.
What Bidart refers to in these particular lines* as falsity was to me the beauty, the world. To capture it and mix it with myself gave me shivers of power. I remember my first real novel, which was the first one published, the minor characters who had none of what I thought of as ‘myself’ in them were by far the most thrilling to me, though I knew they were not written with any great brilliance or insight. They were barely the real thing, but they were it; they existed and were not ‘me’; that was the power, with which nothing compares.
*He speaks of it in different ways throughout the long poem, which is an argument, a conversation, a man turning something around and around in his hand. I can’t do justice to his complex perspective.
Last night, Valentine’s Night, I wrote about my happiness and peace in regard to love, which was true when I wrote it. At the same time I knew or feared it wouldn’t be true later, or rather, wouldn’t be true any longer, therefore wouldn’t be able to be written about as a present containing many possibilities. A personal blog has a briefer shelf-life than fiction.
I wanted the story as it was. It was open. Its falsity was the kind that is an invitation.
Tonight I coil myself in words. I would like to keep doing it, page after page, like an autistic savant reciting prime numbers up beyond the budget deficit trillions, but I’ve done that before, and it leaves me with a hangover.
I will leave you with Bidart again, from Desire. The poem is called “If I Could Mourn Like a Mourning Dove” and this is the first part.
“It is what recurs that we believe,
your face not at one moment looking
sideways up at me anguished, or
elate, but the old words welling up…