Tag: aesthetic principles


Well, that went well. Plenty of action, anyway. No more big piles of paper.

Plenty of small piles, though – so many that my spare room has all but disappeared. My other half looked in at one point and commented – a little tactlessly, I felt:

Thought you were supposed to be tidying up! That bin’s still empty.

I explained how some of the piles were moving closer and just awaited a final check to see if there was anything – a pleasing turn of phrase, the merest germ of a good idea – that might save them from being pulped. And then there were those pieces that weren’t much good but had nostalgia appeal … little poems I wrote to stave off the crushing boredom of exam supervision back in the day, slightly inebriated dialogues written late at night when I should have been getting my beauty sleep, hastily scribbled accounts of incomprehensible dreams I’d woken from … and there, in a pile all its own, my historical novel whose narrator’s heavy dialect made its eighty-thousand words well-nigh unreadable.

That thing? You’ll never get round to doing anything with it. Unless it’s a comic short story about a bloke who reckons he’s a writer.

When she stopped laughing, I told her it wasn’t a bad idea. I’m well known for my stoical acceptance of mild adversity. Don’t know how I’d go in a real catastrophe but that, perhaps fortunately, is for the future.

29 March, at the earliest …

Actually, anything rather than recycle something I spent the best part of five years researching and writing! One of these days, you never know, I could get my second wind and turn it into a smash-hit stage-musical or a block-buster movie-scenario. Laugh all she likes, bless her, she’d be happy enough to sip exotic cocktails on our luxury yacht moored in Monaco or Cannes …

She left, still chuckling, perhaps planning her own best-seller. Perhaps not.

My Walter Mitty moment passed and I gazed despondently at all the paper covering the carpet and single bed like giant wedding confetti. My own plan, to pass all these rough drafts through the eagle eye of my hastily-devised list of aesthetic principles, was in tatters. Night was gathering and I’d got nowhere.

Time was of the essence. I had to act and act fast or I would be crying myself to sleep in the spare room surrounded by the appalling evidence of my own failure.

Yes, time was ticking by. No last-ditch flight to Brussels for me. It was either all in the bin or else back into big piles as if nothing had ever happened. Was I a complete and utter waste of space?

And then, in a blinding flash, it came to me …

The fault lay in my plan, of course! It had been too hasty. My red lines were far too rigid. Or else far too pink and hopelessly vague. And as for that ludicrous catch-all conditional at the end, what fool would devise a set of rules which ended with Rules are there to be broken?

It would have beggared belief if I hadn’t already known what an idiot I was. But there was no time to be lost. I had to come up with an alternative set of aesthetic principles and fast! However, too much of my intellectual energy – such as it was – had been frittered away trying to decide whether old scribblings were Almost Finished or Barely Begun or Half-Baked But Could Cook Through or Good In Parts or even Patchy But Full Of Unfulfilled Potential. It didn’t help that my ability to judge was hopelessly inconsistent, veering between feverish delight and febrile despondency as my ego and id battled it out before a supremely indifferent superego.

As chance would have it (and any readers of this account who are still awake might hope) there was a deus ex machina in the form of one I’d prepared earlier – the ‘one’ in question being a set of aesthetic principles I’d devised for an epic poem about something or other which I’d never even begun – the ‘set’ in question having come to light while I’d been going through my papers but which, preoccupied as I was with the search for literary gold, went unrecognised for what it really was.

I’ll leave you with a copy, in case it’s of any assistance in your own fruitless searches, because I must take to my bed tout suite so that I can be up bright and early tomorrow morning. After all is said and done, who knows what a new day will bring?

Besides, my crystal ball’s down the mender’s …

  1.  First thought, best thought   (Ginsberg)
  2.  Intuition attains the absolute   (Bergson)
  3.  Unity in diversity   (Hegel)
  4.  Without contraries, no progress   (Blake)
  5.  The words must be irrefutable   (Orton)
  6.  Show don’t tell   (James)
  7.  Write the story only you know   (Fountain)
  8.  I write to find out what I didn’t know I knew   (Frost)
  9.  In art, the subject matter is nothing   (Maurois)
  10.  What then?  No then.   (Kafka)
  11.  Be true to the earth   (Nietzsche)
  12.  Re-enchant the world   (Brazilian eco-artist)
  13.  It is necessary to be absolutely modern   (Rimbaud)
  14.  Make it new   (Pound)
  15.  Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order   (Proudhon)
  16.  Invent new values   (Nietzsche)
  17.  Forget yourself   (graffiti)
  18.  I is another   (Rimbaud)
  19.  See all beings in yourself and yourself in all beings and lose all fear (Eastern saying)
  20.  Only connect   (Forster)

PS  The above are paired – meant to be 10 of them but I couldn’t get the numbers right!

Bon nuit!


Image result for broken crystal ball


Image: America’s Survival

Rummaging Through My Drawers

Since turning 70 a strange urge has come upon me.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to make an embarrassing personal confession! No, the urge I’m talking about is a desire to clear the decks of clutter and travel a little lighter into whatever time is left me.

Today I’ve been going through boxes in my spare room, rifling through folders of stuff I wrote years ago for fun. I was looking for things to recycle, in both senses of the word – ideas that could be reworked and junk I could bung in the bin.

After some inconsequential paper-shuffling I came to a slightly shame-faced conclusion. I wasn’t yet ready to decide what was worth keeping and what really deserved pulping. So I sat down and scribbled a quick list of, er, aesthetic principles that might help me sort out the wheat from the chaff.

  1.   Make it modern  (Arthur Rimbaud)
  2.   Make it new  (Ezra Pound)
  3.   Be kind to your mind, write from the heart
  4.   Be true to the earth  (Friedrich Nietzsche)
  5.   The words must be irrefutable  (Joe Orton)
  6.   Regard cliché and genre as portals
  7.   Write about what you don’t know
  8.   Don’t waste words, jump to conclusions  (graffiti on a hermit’s cave-wall)
  9.   Forget yourself  (graffiti I saw on a walk)
  10.   Rules are there to be broken

Not too bad for starters! I’m going to sleep on that and have another go tomorrow, doing a little every day until the paper-pile is processed – one way or the other. And who knows, some may pop up on here? I could do with some new inspiration, even if it’s sometimes rather old hat.

Any coincidences, of course, are serious contenders for inclusion.

Here’s one. The CD I’m listening to at the moment was plucked at random from my sizeable collection – how else to explore its full variety? – and connects with an old poem of mine that came to light while rummaging through my drawers (Ooh, missus!). That album – Jug of Love by the little-known Mighty Baby, who were previously called The Actionwas also the focus of the poem, copied below:

follow your star, baby

in '69 a British band  
          saw Gram play  
with the Byrds - the lads
          were blown away -
that music gave them
(such lyrics, songs and
to sing like angels and
          play like little devils
just like The Grateful Dead
          or Spirit or The Doors -
a course of action with
          a load of perils
but what a gas and
    what a mighty cause!

they put their heads
          together one last time
and made them there a
          picturesque swansong
(such harmonies, such
          tunes, such lovely rhymes!)
so deftly did they tread
          no foot was wrong -
their jug of love was full
          though not their pockets
and so this mighty baby
            missed the rockets!