Now and again life throws you a biscuit. Mine was this odd message I received a couple of weeks back. I’d banned myself from Facebook – not to join the anti-Book bandwagon, but because it was too full of Melbourne. Every time I logged in there were people and messages reminding me of things I’d like to forget, and it was getting pretty depressing. So I announced my sabbatical like the show-pony I am, wrote a grand farewell, and put my electronic house in order. The previous day I had made an undoubtedly called-for post on Sam Wareing’s page, some devastatingly witty play-on-words on the German kunst. And then on my last day, having been hating on the Book for some weeks, the very last thing I did was open this final new message from an unfamiliar name.
i have, in the dark and private space between my driver’s seat and centre console, a thin pale book of your poems. this car is parked behind my house, covered in snow, and it’s -30 outside. you can, of course, understand why i haven’t finished it.
i think it’s interesting that even though sam wareing is in germany, i am in northern canada, and you, as your blog just told me, are in buenos aires, facebook still allows us to “mingle”, per se.
i played in a band, years back, that sam liked. your kunst comment just appeared on my newsfeed, and i noticed your name.
i got chatting with you in the Great Britain a while back, and you gave me a pre-release (for want of a better word) copy of your poetry book.
forgive me for not going outside to the car to remind myself of the title.
on long road trips i randomly extract the book, and give it to the intrigued passenger to read to me. it’s moderately calming.
Admittedly it’s not the most lavish praise that one could receive. But it was also somehow immensely charming. And for me it answered again all those questions about why I write, why do I devote so much time and effort to something that is kind of a job, and kind of a career, but isn’t ever really a living. Writers get to reach out way beyond their personal spheres, and add a little bit of something to the lives of people they barely know, or have never met. The sense of reward in that – that somewhere far off in the world, my creations have played some small part in someone else’s happiness, and without me knowing the slightest thing about it – is wonderful and fulfilling and makes me deeply happy. I’m still smiling over this.
Another thing that made me happy recently was this: Sam Cooney’s review of the journal Cutwater, whose editors published some of my stuff. Another small victory, but a lot of satisfaction. Maybe this is the kind of satisfaction an engineer gets when he helps build a really good bridge. Of course we all know that the vocations are very differently valued, and we all know that writers aren’t the ones getting paid. But for me it’s a vocation nonetheless. Maybe that makes me a volunteer. But I figure I’d rather be a broke writer than a rich accountant. And I’d rather be a mediocre writer than a mediocre waiter, wondering exactly what I’ve achieved besides an impressive four-plate technique and an extensive DVD collection. I’ve made my choice and I’m happy with it. Because sometimes life throws you a biscuit. And sometimes you open a pack of Milk Arrowroot and find a mystery Kingston.