On Reflection

The Book As Teacher
It is fascinating  how each book has to teach the writer how to write it. As I begin what I hope will become my seventh book, I am humbled to find, again, that each new book means that you have to learn to write all over again. Sure some things do carry over: I know for example the stamina it takes to see a project through over several years, that the writing part isn't hard, but the staying creative part is. I also know how difficult it is for family and friends that this project is as important to me as anyone of them. Not an easy thing to admit but it is true, there is a price to all work, and true creative endeavour operates right at the familial level. Fortunately as life goes on and creativity becomes a regular part of it, those who love us learn what is needed, and that we are not going away from them. The artist also learns to not be so much of an arse. In my case having an office completely separate from home means I can enter the bubble of writing, pacing up and down, and talking to myself; without wearing my beloved out with what might appear to be the behaviour of a mad person.


This new book is taking your correspondent on new journeys. I find myself so reluctant to heed the call to adventure, after all there is so much to do in the ordinary world: marketing, public projects, the festival circuit, promoting my new poetry book. Yet the call has been made and though there aren't many words written yet, narratives, maps for the journey are laying themselves out in ink, calling me like a siren to taste what they have to offer.


Today this new book did the strangest thing, it moved from being a bright idea to being part of my body. One tool I use in my work is that I cover the office walls with thick lining paper held up by masking tape.  I need to think of many things simultaneously, so I write core ideas and process systems directly onto the walls as they are forming. Visitors to Siddique Towers often comment that it is like a mad professor's laboratory, with my huge leather couch for lying on and gazing at the walls, while I let my eyes sit on the thick black markered writing; little drawings, post-it notes and photocopies bits covering most of the room. I would put a photo of the office up here but all the stuff on the walls is live, so it's not really for anybody else's eyes. Not that any of it would make much sense to you. Fortunately my visitors tend to be people who know not to ask what the scribbles mean.


By absorbing these scribbles into my body the book begins to resonate with the literary music I feel inside myself which will underpin how the book is written. Each book has different music, this is something else that I am learning as I move into my twentieth year of writing. When this core music then meets the story and the inherently wonderful music of the language then the sparks fly and to continue the metaphor, there is melody - or in the writer's case literature.

Pic by Kilian Eng




On Being A Poet Today
..have more depth than surface. Be an artist rather than appearing to be. So many 'artists' have the right laptop & phone, a shiny website/facebook page etc, they hang with the right people and talk the right kind of talk, but don't work on being rigorous and honest and developing their poetry... and god forbid they should spend years of their lives dedicated to reading poetry for its own sake, searching ideas out which feed the spirit and challenge the inner world. Is a life of surface and fakery going to satisfy you? Your friends will slap you on the back but you'll know the truth. Being the artitst/person you honestly are -  moving forward tiny step by tiny step in becoming.. What an adventure there is to be had if we will just put one foot in front of the other.. We're going to shake and wobble and get things wrong, and sometimes we'll get things right, Others will always appear to be doing better than us in moving ahead with the game.. but please ask yourself, is the world of appearances going get you where you live? It is quite a thing to be a poet, an artist.. for real I mean.. and that is good.




Nothing Is Original
"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to."

— Jim Jarmusch


On The Function of The Human Being

Human beings seem to have two basic functions in this universe of ours: having relationships, and telling stories. I can’t think of much else that we are made for. Oh I know we make war, and chase money, power, and make mistakes - but even those come down to relationships and stories at heart.


On Politicians & Business
I wonder why it is we believe these people, is there no curiosity or investigative spark left in us any more? Certainly the news just seems to be fear mongering and people saying ‘Blah Blah’ with no one checking out the moral or human truth of what is said with any sign of empathy. Perhaps this is why we have always needed, and always will need artists, as it is not possible to get much reality from what passes for reality.

‎'Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!' - Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol)


On Nationality
‘I do not recognise any borders. Nationality is an imposition pushed on us to separate us. The country I grew up and became an adult in, is the world of literature and language, that is the only flag I am prepared to fly.’


On 'The Other'
'Part of the writer's job is to put him/herself in the place of the underdog/the hated/the brilliant/the other person's place no matter who they are. That the writer can contain all that you hate and all that you love, and all that you fear or run toward. To be able to have all of that inside oneself, makes the life of a writer multidimensional and endlessly fascinating.'


Read, Write Make Love 
'Read and write - that is the life. Run and exercise to make your body tired and strong. Talk with the person you love. Make love with the person you love. Keep with their eyes, offer all that you are up to your love, even your darkness.... and then sleep and read...' 
'I keep on writing so that I can keep falling in love with life....'


A Letter To Myself
'Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us. But within that inch we are free.' - V for Vendetta

Real literature/art offers an open door to beauty, humanity, joy, difficulty and meaning.

I choose the open door, the risk of love, of failure. I’ll take beauty over a credit rating, I’ll take fire, and the possibility of crashing and burning over a slow long life of egoistic reaction, decay, unlived moments and soul debt.

Always in being. Beginning, middle, and end, it is always about beingness.

Art is an act of rebellion.

Find the ten seconds of courage it takes to do the things which bring you into being, openness and liberty.

Read books of life.
Write books of life.

Take small daily steps of freedom, learn to make bread, plant a garden, walk a mile, ask for some of what you desire, look into your own shadow and acknowledge all the parts of yourself with an open heart.

Meet everything with an open heart, and aim for the heart in others.

Listen to the music of rebellion and don’t just have it with ten thousand other tunes on your music player, let it sing into your heart and actions; find others to sing with.

It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake as long as it is genuinely made in the pursuit of the real and true.

Be considerate of those around you - learn the difference between pity and compassion, reactivity and responding from your highest true self.

Freedom doesn’t mean hurting others, it means taking responsibility for your own life.

With love

John