Good advice: Rilke’s Gift to the World

So all I see is young artists and they ask me how they can publish their work, how they can become better writers? It has nothing to do with becoming better at it. They are already there. You have to be committed to your craft. You have to take vows. There is a sacred contract between a writer and a book.

Some of us become so wounded in the process of rejection (we see it as abandonment) that we never go back to what we have been called to do in the first place. We forget we are poets and that being tormented and unseen at the same time is part of the seam of the process. We are writers. We are struggling iconoclasts. We are all part of the iconoclastic-family. We are futurists. We are sculptors. We are already there. We just needed the ‘elegant mathematics’ to help us along.

Sometimes we neglect ‘the gift’. There is a kind of alchemy in your head when you begin to write. It has its own machinery, its own wheels and all it asks of us is this? Write anything. Do not edit, decipher yet anything that you write. Just do not censor yourself. You need grit. It is going to take you far wanderer like Moses in the wilderness. All compositions aligned for art's sake will result in its own rewards. In hardship, trial and despair, that desperation, sly in the voice and mind of the cuckoo living wasteland of the tortured poet is mine. Mine for the taking. Breath taking as impoverished courage might seem to be sometimes it is worth it. The festival of it amuses me, pours itself into me, the physical me, it is all the elements. Greatness lies in the peace it gives me.

Read much. Read everything you can get your hands on because it will not just inspire you. Inspiring your imagination and your subconsciousness. Perhaps silence is the best answer, (guardian angels have swords and humanity has silence). Do not spend all your time thinking of all the negativity in the world. Laugh. Smile. Become aware of just how much you have to be grateful for, for every lesson is a breathing lesson, a celestial navigation on this patchwork planet (my entire favourite reads by Anne Tyler).

Just think of what came before is now gone. Past is past. Intellectual thinkers, ego, psyche, that ‘psychological framework’. Well now, there is only personal space, future living and soul retrieval, consciousness travelling across the globe. What I believed to be before, as truth has become knowledge and isn't knowledge powerful? Knowledge of the present situations taking place all over the world mostly conflict, mostly war, mostly brutality from man against man and vulnerable women and children caught in the middle.

I remember great poets, and I recognise that I am getting older. More set in my ways, moving forward towards something impenetrable, invincible. Protected in this mysterious world. Projecting myself forward into a future not filled with spiritual poverty, or wealth known as prosperity. Grounded by the gravity of Mother Earth, joy. (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky), the Russian writers (Nabokov's Lolita which wounded me, and that taught me that we learn from our scars, we are not our scars, we are not our wounds, it is just part of our personal journey, our psyche, the teeth sunken into my personality), and Kubrick.

Failure can hurt. Young girls who think they will be goddesses forever can hurt you just like publishers with their neatly typed (by their secretaries who wear their hair in chignons), rejection letters (forgive them for they know not what they do). Other writers who have won more prizes than you have, who have the world eating out of their hands (forgive them for they know not what they do)? Do you understand that? Do you understand compulsion? Do you understand the complexities now in the mind of the poet and that there is an unstoppable fine line, a psychological thread that borders the finesse of the writer and the instinct of the poet?

Then there are films, which are at the very fabric of our human nature. They are like a flame. They reverberate with a kind of poignancy. Meanwhile poetry is like an invisible woman while films are the art form of this century and I have to confess that I miss it, I miss the medium. So the poets come, the greats come and they guide me on this journey, this route like Saints when they come marching through my consciousness like child soldiers. Unnatural, disturbing, an avalanche of them, an avalanche of thoughts about Anna Kavan’s ‘Ice’ or ‘Asylum Piece’. No light. Only night. The night of an insomniac and if I have to examine the unquiet mind of the poet, I would say that it is included in all of that I have mentioned above.

Despair is painful when it comes to rewriting drafts of poetry and it is easy to feel disillusioned. It is easy to become a Buddhist monk in a second but keep at it. Do not retreat. Keep at it. Because believe you me you will reach a stage where what you are writing as a poet, that is which is hardwired to your brain, that which is authentic, will suddenly become brilliant on the page and someone will take knowledge away with them from something that you thought was nothingness. It is powerful to be honest. There are not a lot of honest people left in this world. Write and as if by Cheshire cat magic, possibilities will appear.

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Abigail George

Abigail George is a feminist, poet and short story writer. She is the recipient of two South African National Arts Council Writing Grants, one from the Centre for the Book and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council. She was born and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, educated there and in Swaziland and Johannesburg. She has written a novella, books of poetry, and collections of short stories. She is busy with her brother putting the final additions to a biography on her father’s life. Her work has recently been anthologised in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film.

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