Equine or Ox?

The equinox has arrived at just the right time for this old Jungian loon to contemplate how the research leave is going, and lay out a few impulses as though they were plans. Essentially, the task is to set aside the tasking, and get on with the asking; to step away from the stubborn ox-like defence of creative space you have to maintain while holding down a busy job, and give way to the more sudden Pegasuscitations that relaxing into writing grants you.

One such impulse is to be slightly more forthcoming across my blogs, as I have a bit more time for the structured reflection which leads to larger scale work. And the first aspect of that is to be more transparent in my use of blogs.

Hitherto I’ve tended to use a duck n tuck away strategy like some paranoid red squirrel defending against the grey goo legions who seek to steal both energy and invention. (While I try to reach out creatively for collaborations, my ego appears to imagine itself to be assailed on all sides by ergono-vampires and boffin-zombies, recoiling like the late Byzantine Empire from the realisation that the imaginary West is as much a threat as the imaginary East.) So I have seven blogs and an old website I use for sometimes only slightly different purposes.

Before we whisper horse, then, here are a few remarks re the blocks of ox, with the intention of examining hopefully not just my motives, but why we engage in the ambivert act of simultaneous display and rumination. As in a number of these posts, I’m trying to sketch out both content and methodology for something a little more summative than a list of infrequently-maintained sites. Here, however, is that very list.

The present blog should have been enough in itself, containing in its seven categories a range of ways of approaching writing from the quotidian ‘current emanations’ through the more chaotic (or even kairotic) ‘xenochronicities’, and back to historic and recovered ‘elderblogs’. Reviews are reproduced as soon as the relevant publication has moved on an issue, stuff by others who don’t themselves blog is posted as ‘The Others’ – not enough in that at the moment – as is the case with ‘Public Artbone’, an initial set of notes on a big area of work for me. Creative doodling appears infrequently under ‘Sparrow-mumbling’ – and that should have been enough.

But I have three other sites of my own ramblings, and three blogs which are collaborative ventures – plus the older website with still more material piled up on it. Not all of these have been consistently represented under my links, usually through ineptitude masquerading as modesty. But I’m more interested here in the impulse to hide – even when the light is very faint and the bushel barely budded. Partly this is dishevelled shyness, partly self-deluded coyness.

But partly it’s from a genuine impulse to pursue the fragments of the self in the good old Jungian sense of exploring individuation. It seems I have to see them as they are in their scattered Trebizondian disarray before I can understand how or whether to put them back together again.

The Lost Notebook is very much representative of this impulse, starting as an act of recovery, then developing into a tribute to the need to lose (some, most, then, finally, all) things, to the difficult acceptance of loss – texts, objects, and, most terribly, people – and to the separate status of what is remembered.

This leads naturally on to ReMakar, a site which gathers elements of the half-forgotten and unfinished fictions I’ve working on for twenty or so years, never quite bringing my fictive or is it fabulistic impulse into enough focus either to fully satisfy me, to interest a publisher, or to make me persist in interesting a publisher.

It’d perhaps be more accurate to say that these were engagements with prose genres, attempts to see these as something other than a set of narrative rules, working in parallel to those of literary fiction or indeed of poetry, but rather as part of an expansion of our definition of the literary, in the same way that, for me at least, dialect, jargon, Scots (whatever you think Scots is) is at once an extension and a critique of English.

Thirdly – and fallen pretty much into abeyance like the MySpace site which hosts it, there are the dream diary-like entries of The Chimericon. (Here’s one ambition: to import those into this blog.) I know, I know – other people’s dreams, but The Chimericon, as its name suggests, was more about finding traces (landscape, architecture, fauna, artefacts) of that wierd internal universe from which we each build up our world-view. More word cartoons than analysis, in the way I’ve tried to match text with image here and there in my online galleries.

The three collaborative sites are all variations on a theme: ways of keeping in touch with writers, regional national and international, in the wake of projects that, hopefully, each have further aspects to them, whether in terms of publications, events or models to take elsewhere. They are hubs, holding patterns for communities that are likely to be lost just in the course of things, but which at the time I and others valued, and which, sentimental as a stuffed dog in a glass case, I continue to care about.

They are, chronologically, North-East and Bulgarian; North-East and Muscovian; and Euro-ish and Indian. Each has led to or is leading to a publication, usually a chimeric mixture of translation and original work or collaborative writing.

The eighth site is the boiling Lobsterium itself, an actual aged website as opposed to a blog, Gairnet 3. This is the conceptual predecessor to this blog, gathering traces of work from the late 90s onward, and offering a sales point for my various publications.

I’m now about six weeks into this period of several months’ leave. The first month, as ever, was pretty much lost in tidyings and extrications, but a number of projects were still embarked on, more or less strategic behaviours have been initiated, and plans laid. That’s as much as I have time for today: the ox’s other duties must be turned to: there are still three deadlines crying out for completion. But next (possibly even tomorrow [- Aye, right. (FutureBill)]) I’ll get on to those projects, behaviours and plans.

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About Bill Herbert

Poet and pseudo-scholar W.N. Herbert was born in Dundee in 1961, educated there and at Oxford, where he completed his DPhil thesis on Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, and now lives and works in Newcastle. He is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and his books are published by, among others, northern publisher Bloodaxe Books. He is also the Dundee Makar, or city laureate.
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One Response to Equine or Ox?

  1. Do you have different blogs for a reason? Maybe you should just choose one and stick to it? Not necessarily define it, just write whatever you feel: reviews, random thoughts, poems etc. Blogs are hard to keep though. A bit like journals. I’ve always found it easy to keep writing poetry/ prose but journal entries and blogs seem to be more difficult to post regularly. Must be different for different people.

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