I’ve been trying hard – so hard – to force a change of mentality in recent weeks. But it doesn’t half bring forth its challenges, and that was truly epitomised this week.
This week marked the fourth anniversary of Writing Privacy. Time for a long-overdue makeover, I thought. And perhaps more importantly, time for a change.
It’s the time of the year when, either in pleasure or platitude, we are naturally drawn to reflect upon companionship (or the absence of it). And though I’m rather at a loss after an already tribulation-filled February, it almost goes without saying that the good poet finds such a beautiful way of coming to terms with this absence.
These end-of-year epilogues have become invariably sad affairs. Of course, I would prefer that it was different, but I still believe that they help me channel energies in a better way. Last year – in what I still believe to be my best ever contribution here – I said that structural positives had been offset by surface negatives. Now, the poles have changed.
It feels like the final chapter of my thesis, on Andrew Marvell’s ‘Poetics of Privacy’, has been a traumatic experience. Not simply because writing by day and by night on different subjects is gruelling, but because the private internal negotiations that Marvell constantly faced and the impossibility of choice he so often found himself with leave a man permanently trapped in a life that offers so little solace and almost nothing except a desperate rush towards the end.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of Knightmare: the show that brought me to life and nurtured me into the person that I became.
More people than ever are still looking for a philosophy on life that offers any comfort. During the New Year, a time when we deliberately parse our minds for retrospection and hope, I thought about the paradox of interconnectedness: how, by superficially feeling closer together than ever before, we might never feel further apart.
Once upon a time, I would write to conjure up positivity, to attempt to push the boundaries of human feeling. But when darker arts have a lasting hold, this is what tests relationships with writing and with the self to their extreme.
By the time Andrew Marvell turned 28 (as I recently did) in March 1649, Charles I had been executed. The regicide inspired one of the best political poems ever written, and ended up shaping a history that would define Marvell’s fascinating future career.
How much can you put yourself into the mind of another individual? My work on Marvell and Private Lives has been a wonderful introspective process because the way I’ve symbiotically linked our biographies together has given me license to think as deeply and darkly as I please.