From Poetry Magazine, we get his “Journey to Iceland” from 1937 here.
When I was ten years old, Ronald Reagan was elected President and my beloved Georgia peanut farmer was booted out. I wrote my first diary entry that day. I’ve been keeping a journal–sometimes very badly–for 32 years. Writing gave me myself.
Title: On Writing (4/2001)
“The pain passes, only beauty remains.” Renoir to Matisse
Ok, so I picked up the pen to do what writers do, writing about bright red rockers on a gray and crumbling porch, about thick boys with mee-maws and mammoth jars of olives. I am writing about the hunger for cave time, from the back of the cave. I am scratching on the wet walls for no reason. I am writing about nonsense like ten years from now, I am writing about what is hiding from the mag-lite, like the sweet and guilty thoughts of lovers I should’ve never taken. I am writing to you, my confessor, the paper that receives all secrets.
To write without ceasing is a steely prayers on shattered knees. It is writing about the edges of life, like bubbles on a mission to get bigger and bigger until there are no edges. Writing without ceasing—cuz you can’t get to where you want to go if you don’t. Craft requires attention, precision and courage and once you get started, you can’t help but see what surrounds you, can’t help but hear what is never said. This is not the work of Inspiration alone, this demands something prolonged and not frequently pleasurable–a reorientation of perception always to the present, most times without your permission. The present focus may trigger memory or vision, but it is the present moment that allows time travel.
Writing without ceasing is volunteering to be hijacked by details, nuance, and reflection. Writing without ceasing is not a solitary experience. It insists on the whole of humanity.
Writing without ceasing is taking an oath to both Live and Die wide awake. Is is an invitation to manifest contradiction. It is the lighthouse that gets you back in one piece.
When you are writing, what you are writing is always a threat to someone or something. What you are producing is not only not-capital, in many cases it is anti-capital. Writing must be your Lady Liberty.
Writing without ceasing is agreeing to darkness and then relishing in it…it is the additional obligation to notice all things brave and stunning and knowing they too shall pass.
It is to be helpless and omnipotent simultaneously. Writing without ceasing is living as if this daily dialogue is the only true thing.
Being a writing is being alone–intentionally building character by taking terrifying risks, adventures unplanned, and loving people likely to break your heart. It means giving your words space to evolve. Being alone with the aftermath of experience is tantamount to holiness. It is a quest and a covenant with fear. It is licking your wounds in private and then making them public. It is wearing no armour when the arrows of mindfulness are flying straight toward you–on fire. It is knowing that the only way out is through. Make no mistake, this is not a hobby, not a free time activity. Writing without ceasing is perpetual in and out. It is thriving past survival, it is what we stay alive for.