This has been an extraordinarily fruitful week for immersing myself in writing of my own. Part of the magic was timing, I was longing to get going again, but also this place. I always love coming to Hebden Bridge, but I only left the apartment once this week and then wanted to be back and writing again, so in a sense I could have been anywhere, but a steep sided valley is always good and this little apartment is perfect. The welcome was lovely, including freshly baked lemon cakes, and the place, the ground floor beneath the owners’ home, is beautifully set up and was once the Industrial Co-operative Society’s building so it has good ghosts, even though I don’t believe in ghosts.
For my last day I’ve been working on a couple of poems that connect more personal material with the physical location of Cwmorthin and its history. I’ve got one good draft and one ropy skeleton that needs a lot of work or putting out of its misery– we’ll see. I’ve also got lots of notes from Paul Ricoeur, exploring doubt further. Doubt is clearly an important through line in both the process of writing and the material, I’m discovering. Ricoeur says:
The poetics of narrativity corresponds to the aporetics of temporarily
In other words when we are at a loss in the face of time the human response is to narrativise, to tell stories, to construct poetry.
Ondaatje, whose work I love, says something similar in In the Skin of a Lion, about how art orders ‘the chaotic tumble of events’. Ricoeur also talks about how narrative is restorative – it validates the humanity of those written about, the writer and those reading, he considers. I like that. We tell stories to reconcile ourselves to time – to the huge events of cosmology, the big and the mo hidden events of history and to our personal journeys. As Ricoeur so brilliantly puts it:
The whole history of suffering cries out for vengeance and calls for narrative.