Sex, Lies and Writing

In 1994, guitarist/singer Martin Simpson, hitherto known for luminous versions of British ballads, and blues,  released a cd “A Closer Walk With Thee.”  A cd of instrumental versions of American gospel tunes…a stunning collection, by the way.  I saw him at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, later, and he told the audience that after release of ‘A Closer Walk…’ he was approached by fans and friends who asked “hey, Martin, you haven’t become one of those, have you?” to which he responded, something like…I sing a lot of british ballads about murder, robbery and incest, and i don’t believe in any of those, either.’

To which there was a sincere round of applause.  But it put me in mind then, and recurs today, of that thorny issue….where does the art end and the artist begin?   Are they one?

 

They are not.  Just because an actor plays villains and wife-beaters, it does not mean that he is one himself.   Altho some actors are persecuted as if they were.   It is a part he plays…live with it, folks.

 

Writers use whatever material is at hand…observation of people….books read….movies seen…their own experience….and, of course, those dark images percolating up from the subconscious.

 

From these disparate elements, the writer cobbles together a tale or poem.  The chances are it is not real, folks.   At least mostly not real.   There is always some element of observation or experience, or there would be no trigger for the creation.

 

When i write about people, I have images in mind.  Usually, they are impressions of friends, people i see in coffee shops, or memories of childhood.  These mix together in the context of the poem or story, and altho you might think i am writing about a specific someone, that is rarely the case.

 

I meet a neighbor in the street…she asks where i have been…and after the conversation is past, i sit down to write, and she, or the image of her, becomes part of the story.   The story is not about her, she is not in the story, it is just made up.  And if “I” am in the story, it is not me, it is simply using first person as a powerful means of telling the tale.

 

The creation is not the creator.   The creator is simply reflected in the creation…and, in a mirror, you see things in reverse, and you don’t see what’s behind the image in the glass.  I have written about rape, but, of course, never done it…considering it, next to child abuse, as  the most odious and unforgiveable violation of the person.   I wrote a story about being in love with a boy who had a crooked smile just like Harrison Ford’s, and having a crush on a beautiful girl named April, but, i am not the woman telling the story, not a woman at all, and I have never loved a man with a smile like Harrison Ford’s, or, much more depressing, a girl named April.   I guess i am in that story, somewhere, but, I defy you to figure out what the story says about me.

 

Art is about truth…right?   But it is also about lies.  The biggest truth emerges from the lie.  If i write a poem or a story which disturbs, look to yourself.  What truth about you has the story evoked?  The story is not necessarily about me at all;  it very well may have no foundation in fact at all;  I am just a storyteller, using whatever grist is available for my mill.  (So, watch what you say around me, or you might just see it in someone else’s mouth in a future story!)

 

My writing is not reportage. 

 

Okay, we have looked at lies and writing….kind of.  What about sex…That third part of the title of this post? 

 

Sorry.  I just used it as a come-on….(and a take off on the title of a well-known film).  Live with it.

 

Next….in future posts….naughty limericks (is there another kind?)…and a poem called “Gratitude”,  coming up soon.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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