A forty-kilometre drive and being a poet.

I had to go to Sydney for a meeting today, and part of that involved driving forty-odd kilometres to what is now my most convenient railway station to catch the train with colleagues. I like driving – it’s good thinking time – and I like long drives, so I wasn’t averse to the drive, but I hadn’t anticipated how beautiful it would be. I was driving through mist-laden, rain-soaked farmland, and then into state forest. I was surrounded by trees and grass and fields of peacefully-grazing cattle, and by moist tree-ferns and what I guess would be classified as rainforest, overlooked all the while by the wildness of Mount Sugarloaf. Countryside like that – half the reason I moved to the rural outskirts of Newcastle – makes my soul sing.

And I found myself wondering, why is it that I’ve been so long without doing much writing at all? Especially poetry – I’ve just written a book of the stuff, and yet I’ve barely set pen to paper since I finished the edits. What’s going on?

Obviously, I’ve been busy, and distracted, and the day-to-day realities of running a busy human life (and getting sick) have got in the way. And that’s got to be ok, because the alternative is that it’s not ok, and then I start to feel judgemental and grumpy with myself. But there’s also a sense in which I need to regain my mind’s capacity to make poetry out of what it sees.

So I decided, simply, to do that. I looked, properly (within the realms of safe driving), and I allowed my mind the space to play with words. I held the words gently, and I tasted them, and I relished in them, delighted in them. I allowed myself to be elaborate, to use words as more than tools for drawing up a mental to-do list; I played with words in the same way my artist friend plays with colours and paints, with nothing to lose and only beauty to gain. I painted the view, and the feelings, with sentences, metaphors, descriptives, and I remembered what it is to play with words, to have fun with them. To delight in them. I became a poet again. I became, again, what I’m increasingly convinced I’m created to be.

I was driving, of course, and perhaps part of the pleasure of that drive this morning was that there was no capacity to capture my word-sculptures. They probably wouldn’t have been much good for a full poem anyway – what was important about that drive this morning was that it reminded me that I am in fact a person of words. A poet. It’s what I am, and I was reminded this morning of the joy I take in that, and the importance of claiming that for myself.

Although, it also made me think: I must buy a dictaphone.


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