Wednesday, May 20, 2009

`Like a Stem Through the Rubbish'

I’ve made the acquaintance of William A. Sigler, poet, translator and proprietor of Poet Tree, which he describes as “a daily poetry blog with virtually no traffic.” I recognize kinship when I see it. There is a delusionally fine line between hobby and blog, private pleasure and public utility. As Sigler puts it in an e-mail, “Like yourself, I am an outcast in the Borgesean virtual Library of Babel.” The tough part is not growing in-grown. It’s time to quit when you echo your own echoes, a sure symptom of Blogger’s Syndrome, or B.S.

V.S. Pritchett has a funny six-page story, “The Voice,” in which an unfrocked Welsh priest, the Rev. Morgan, is trapped in a bombed-out church during the Blitz. His only company is a bottle of whiskey, and he passes the time singing hymns while his rescuers dig through the rubble:

“The voice had not stopped singing. It went on, rich, virile, masculine, from verse to verse of the hymn. Shooting up like a stem through the rubbish the voice seemed to rise and branch out powerfully, luxuriantly and even theatrically, like a tree, until everything was in its shade. It was a shade that came towards one like dark arms.”

Pritchett has something else in mind, and I haven’t even mentioned the current pastor of the church, Morgan’s rival, accuser and would-be savior, the Rev. Lewis, but Morgan’s whiskey baritone rising from the ruins is a fine metaphor for blogging. Sigler, who heard Jorge Luis Borges read at Johns Hopkins in 1984, adds this to his e-mail:

“I’ll just give you a web-exclusive translation of something Borges once wrote, by way of explaining myself:

"While writing I feel justified; I think: this is my destiny as a writer, even beyond the value of my writing. And if I were told all my writing would be forgotten, I don't believe I would receive this news with happiness, with satisfaction, but I would continue writing. For whom? For no one, for me alone."

I thought at once of David Ferry’s “Rereading Old Writing,” in which he says “writing / Is a way of being happy.”

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