What is the point of having set up a blog if you never write in it? Well, it can serve as a ‘next thing’ outlet, and I expect it does. Though so often the ‘next thing’ is in fact the project that you need to hold close to your heart to allow it to grow in its own time and fashion. Or it’s something that involves others, and you can’t really presume their approbation until it’s closer to landing. I have three of these jostling now so am privately busy and publicly quiet, apart from several recently published poems and a couple of anticipated articles. And of course, the staging of my adaptation of Pip Williams’ The Dictionary of Lost Words in Adelaide and Sydney in the second half of the year (see previous posts).
And then there’s the rest of life. We live on 30 acres in the southern Adelaide hills, where we’ve been on and off for over 40 years, sharing the land (a so-called ‘farm’ – aka hobby farm – with just under 20 sheep, 2 donkeys and four extremely fat, black, Low-Line Angas cows) with two other families, now reduced to the ‘ancients’ as all our astonishing (in our view!) children have escaped us for their own busy lives. The latest project is a wonderful folly – a walled garden. See the photo above for five of the six ancients and the (unfinished – the chaos in the distance is genuine chaos) garden in bloom.
Summer at the farm is a mixture of delight in the work involved (we do useful as well as pretty gardens…) and fear of fire. Thanks to La Nina we’ve escaped the worst of the fear for the last couple of years; but also thanks to La Nina we are carrying a heavy load of plant cover that will be susceptible to burning once El Nino shifts into gear. The kangaroos are down a bit this year – everything is so seasonal, the critters move about to their own rhythms: for example, the bullfrogs are just back in the pond after an absence of a couple of months and the swifts have been around for a few weeks only to desert us now – but we have koalas in the trees close to the house, apart from other wildlife, so we fear for them, too.
But this is not ‘the writing life,’ is it? So I thought maybe a couple of quotes that work for me might offer a charge to a stray visitor to this site and justify its existence. Here we go:
I’ve just been reading Paul Kildea’s stunning biography of Benjamin Britten (Benjamin Britten: a Life in the Twentieth Century, Penguin, London 2014). In it, he quotes Britten as writing (in an address following an award given to him in Aspen in 1964): “(An artist) ‘demands that his art shall be accepted as an essential part of human activity, and human expression; and that he shall be accepted as a genuine practitioner of that art and consequently of value to the community; reasonably, he demands from society a secure living and a pension when he has worked long enough’.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same? (Apart from pronouns – Britten wouldn’t get away with that then-conventional but also conventionally-unconscious formulation today.)
Kildea also writes: “(W.H.) Auden sat in ‘a dive on Fifty-Second Street’ on the same day that more than a million German soldiers marched into Poland. Here he contemplated the expiration of a ‘low, dishonest decade’, writing what became perhaps the most famous poem of the 1930s, ‘September 1, 1939’ which would haunt him for the remainder of his life
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.”
It’s not September, of course, it’s now nearly a year since Putin’s army advanced into Ukraine on 24th February 2022. But the rest of it is – again and so sadly – the same.