§ New Line of Thought
Every new line of thought is a departure.
Or a new way of arriving where one already is.
– S.D. Chrostowska, Matches
I have been thinking about voice lately.
I am drawn to voices in literature, listening to the way stories are told, the language, the perspective, the vision, the content. I can’t say what I am looking for but I know when I find it. Or, more critically, I know when there is, in an otherwise worthwhile read, nothing for me at this time. As a reader I am grazing, hunting and pecking, listening for the voices that startle and ideas that stimulate. It is an entirely idiosyncratic endeavour driven by my own writing–reading to write that is sometimes at cross purposes with reading to review.
But it is reading that leads one down interesting side roads.
I’ve been immersed for the past few days, in en abîme, the blog of Daniela Cascella, in anticipation of reading her book of the same name and its successor F.M.R.L.. From the fragments and articles I have read to date, it is clear that she writes with an intuitive grace about the experience of language as rhythm, tone, and meaning. Reading, writing and listening are, for Cascella, deeply sensuous experiences. Most explicitly she is drawn to writing after sound, a project as seemingly elusive as the task that drives my own writing: that is, writing after being.
In her review of Marlene van Niekerk’s mesmerizing The Swan Whisperer for Music & Literature, Cascella prefaces her piece by describing this work as:
“ . . . a tale of transmission, disappearance, and utterance, of writing as it hovers at the edge of language, trafficking with the ephemeral and the unreliable; challenging the primacy of the written text through a compelling reflection on flow and interference, rhythms and non-origin.”
I am deeply interested in articulating the experience of being, an age old question I know, but I would suggest that its timelessness arises from the inherent challenge of adequately giving voice to an experience that, itself, “hovers at edge of language.”
We live in a world of sound-bites, of inspirational quotations, often ripped out of context and juxtaposed against images of flowers, beaches, or sunsets and spilled out on Twitter or printed on coasters and tea towels in gift shops. Authenticity is a watch word, To thy own self be true, as the Bard himself would say. We hunger after the healing journey of self-discovery, we admire it in our heroes, we long for it in our own lives.
I have sought it myself. My life has been a constant struggle to balance and rationalize an incongruent and conflicting experience of being in the world. I don’t know if my own challenges are, or have been, greater or less than those of anyone else, for in truth, the only truth I have is my own and even that is suspect.
“He has the feeling that merely by being alive he is blocking his own way. From this sense of hinderance in turn, he deduces the proof that he is alive.”
– Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
What I do know is that I am possessed of a persistent sense of groundlessness, a very real and present awareness of a fragile and constant process of coming into being. It is an ongoing expression of inauthenticity that I experience – if I could capture a truth it would be momentary and fleeting, cancelled out by its negative in the act of expression. My writing is directed toward giving this experience, as I know it, voice.
Which brings me back to the point where I started. As I said, I have been thinking about voice. But until this point I was thinking of voice in the sense of expression, not sound.
My own voice is damaged. Metaphorically and in fact. I sacrificed my voice a number of years ago in my endeavour to be real, and as a result I have lost power and depth. My voice strains easily. To speak loudly and project takes concentration and effort and leaves me hoarse. Yet I frequently read aloud to myself. I find that to write seriously, I require silence and the freedom to read my writing aloud as I progress. Those that have the misfortune to live with me have learned to accept this quirk, but I must confess I really love to write when I am alone in the house.
That makes me wonder about the necessity of an aural component to the process of writing about being. About silence and sound.
“A stillness that is initially a stillness ready to be, once it ceases to be still . . . An end, recurring so many times that in the moment that it ends . . . An ignited fire of the end to an extent of necessary measure . . . A braided braid . . . Getting to know one another and being known . . . In the trap of mental unification . . . Nonbreak-down . . . Silence, sounded over, blaspheming about silence and about not being silent . . . The inability to locate the word, and yet the necessity to seek it, as if the word could save one from that which is unsaid.”
– Róbert Gál, On Wing
To talk about being, for now, for me, begins with writing about my life. I need to be able to frame the angle at which I intersect with the world. To that end my first piece of “memoirish” writing will be published on Minor Literature(s) in the near future. I am concurrently exhilarated and horrified by the prospect. This is an openly queer piece, at once honest and guarded, and marks the beginning of a journey to find that elusive voice in all its permutations.