My friend Jackie Biggs is an astonishing example to me that anyone can do anything if they really want to do it. She bravely walked out of a full-time job as a journalist and began to pick up bits and pieces of work – everything from caring for dogs at a kennels, to free-lancing, but her real intention was to do what she really wanted to do, which was to write poetry. She set about it without wasting any time at all, and she did so with such determination, and such an eagerness to find her own voice, and a willingness to learn how to do it well, that she leaves me open-mouthed with the progress she has made. She writes poetry all the time, every day is full of poetry, ideas for poems, visual triggers for poems, memories that suggest poems – she is a poet, and sends them off here and there; and good news begins to come in return, a poem in a magazine, a choice of poem of the month with a publisher, another for a collection with someone else. It is really exciting to watch. She loves what she is doing, and doing it well. You can see some of her work on her blog and believe me you will see more of it elsewhere before the year is out. She is one of the Cardigan Cellar Bards who are filmed performing on Youtube, such a treat to see, a genuinely terrific varied bunch of talented writers. I’m writing about this today because someone recently told me to ‘grow up’ when I said I thought it possible that we can all have a go at following our destiny and we don’t have to sit hugging a desk for security and getting rich is not what it is all about. There are others around me who are doing it too. Jackie is not the only one. But yesterday she had good news with one of her poems, and it should be shared!
At times in my life I have wished I was a poet. I have even gone through periods where I tried to be a poet, where I wrote poetry constantly, day after day after day. The results of two of those periods stuck together are somewhere entitled ‘my collection’ amongst my files of reject material. They are the least bad, which I have kept to remind me that I did my best. But the truth is, I do not have it, the talent, the voice. One of my lecturers a long time ago, told me that poetry was a high calling and the preserve of the truly deep thinker. If so then I am demonstrably shallow as anyone who has experienced ‘my collection’ might witness. This makes me indescribably sad sometimes. It isn’t that I don’t like shallow people, I just don’t want to be one.
Writing for me is a variable pleasure and though poetry has figured here and there in my scribblings, stories have always been my thing. My favourite writing is when I am creating a good story, or novel, where characters, plot, expositions, landscapes, and the rest, are down to me. I want them to have depth, but I hear in the things said about my work, that it is, in fact shallow.
‘You do great dialogue’ says one. ‘You don’t waste time on describing too much,’ says another. Dialogue and lack of observational description are how we live our lives in a world full of activity and people, but they are not deep characteristics. They are, in a sense an avoidance of deep, as they are experienced through extroversion, not the silent thought of introversion, which, let’s face it, is the natural demeanour of the poet. I adore poetry, and have to regularly pass on books of it to others, not only to introduce them to new pleasures, but because I want to read new stuff, and if my bookshelf is weighted down with Yeats and Graves and all my other dead poet friends, I will keep lifting them out and revisiting them, not moving on and making room for the new which I am always interested to find. Only recently have I begun to understand that at the touch of a keyboard I can read new poetry and return to it as often as I like. So, I am currently following the blogs of two poets. They are Paul Steffan Jones on wordpress, and Jackie Biggs, ‘a writer’s life’ on blogspot, both are distinct voices, quite different but equally not lacking in depth and quality – poets who have the good fortune to live with what might be termed a high calling.