Working through way through an email spring clean, an old friend printed and posted to me a dozen poems I had sent her in 2000 and 2001. She had moved to Central Europe and we kept in touch by setting each other a monthly poetry challenge.

I don’t write poetry regularly. I thought once a year, perhaps bi-annually. These poems came back to me as a long lost memory. Perhaps even repressed. They were not part of my model of self today.

My model of self today is a writer in a third year of a part-time PhD in the long century slog of the second draft of a novel. A novel I’m sick of the sight of; a novel I began five years ago and want over; a novel I do not particularly like and cannot think about with any perspective.

So these emails – poetry, one short story, and the mundane of the communication – were destabilising. Not quite a shock but a moment that changed my present. It was also a progression of moments; a procession of different reactions.

I went from pleasure at seeing the emails, to nostalgia, to a sickness of seeing a past me I did not recognise and did not remember; and one who was much more free with my feelings. The order of thought when like this:

  1. What, I used to write for fun? Off the cuff?
  2. We used to be so much closer… I shared my feelings so much more easily
  3. Then life picks you up and shifts you on and you wonder why it did that and how and oh I did that?
  4. Am I still saying those same things (“when I get my money worries sorted I’ll find more time to write.” Etc.)?
  5. Why didn’t I keep on writing?
  6. Things are different now; and that reminds me it can be again.

The writing was pretty terrible. But it was free. I didn’t care if it was good. It was for no purpose but to keep contact with a friend. It was not for publication and not to pass a course. Not for recognition—at least not from a world and public purview, but only from a friend. Recognition was part of the relationship. It had an energy and a focus on detail that I don’t associate with my writing now.

Beyond the writing—that last point was the most important. I am struggling with the novel right now. And how much of a commitment it takes in your life. That’s not to say I’m not committed to it. But enjoying it? Fun? Lively and light in all of my other activities? Well…

It’s funny to have one’s past printed up in that way. To see a self that I had forgotten.

But good too. Positive. A moment that changed something.

Leave a Reply