Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Me and influences

D H Lawrence

The prose of the early Lawrence was like a puff of breath on smouldering embers. I rejoiced. Here was somebody whom I related to wholeheartedly. It was like reading myself as another. The phoenix rising from the flames was a brilliant motif. His calm, his passion, his thoughts. This was the kind of writing that I would aspire to.

Then I pondered the unponderable. Why write if it had already been written? Everything was passing before my eyes, but in a different shape from what I was accoustomed to. But it was basically the same. The purpose of living became to devour rather than to produce. Learn.

There were the heavy foorsteps in the hall. I knew them. It brooked no good for any member of the household. There were the intense moments between friends, every movement noted, every breath recorded. I knew it all. I lived like this. I felt the intensity of the moment.

My senses were so attuned to the moods of those around me that I fell silent often out of fear. I felt their emotions more fully than my own. In fact, I discovered I only possessed one emotion. It was smouldering anger. It was internal, consumming me like a disease.

I read the world through broken lenses. And so, I knew, did Lawrence. Discovering his work gave me power. I was no longer alone. I felt united with the past and with the intangible force left by his written work. He produced in me a feeling of kinship. Anne with an 'e' of Green Gables would have said I felt him to be a kindred spirit.

Funnily, I'd never liked red heads before. But I soon learnt to think of Lawrence's ginger beard and hair as a living flame. He was a pillar of light.

He really represented the first open door to my suffocating brain. Anything that came before him was a minor awakening. Here was an outside influence, somebody who created out of his brooding temperment. I loved his absolute passion, his wholehearted, sincere submergence into what ever emotion had a grip on him. The drama! The intensity! He gladened my brain.

My second wonderful English teacher gave us D.H.Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, Gerald Manely Hopkins, John Keats, Jane Austen, Silvia Plath, Emily Brontë, Joseph Conrad, Christina Stead and so many others who helped to sharped my focus. It was heaven. I loved literature. I loved reading. I wanted to be an English teacher. I wanted to open this window for people who were like me. Literature allowed me a space to exist. It recognized me and I lost myself freely. It was a mutual exchange.

Mr Stewart
Mr Stewart said the word 'fuck' in class. He challenged my expectations. The others thought it was pretty wanky and who did he think he was impressing, but I thought quite a lot about it. For me, a girl who never swore, who ate correctly at dinner, who tried to withhold rage at all costs and always ate everything off her plate (or no dessert), it was a revelation. I can see his expression, his blandness, waiting, not anticipating our reaction. He was marvelous, entertaining and I adored him.

He had lovely sparkling blue eyes and a wicked sense of humour. He was really too intelligent for our school and I felt the first of a long succession of doubt about enjoying literature. If this man was so smart, what was he doing here? Was it really challenging enough for him to help us unravel the language of Shakespeare , year after year? Was it really interesting for him to mark our grammer and spelling and paragraph construction? Is that what I wanted? Was there nothing else?

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