the piano announces itself
against clouding and unclouding skies
rain darkens it sun bleaches it
wind ploughs the lupins the piano sways
eases its joints—moans settles its pedals deeper
under grass and earth …
—Ross Bolleter, ‘On Piano Hill’, Piano Hill
Proof, evidence, witness…
Why is it we want so badly to memorialize ourselves? Even while we’re still alive. We wish to assert our existence, like dogs peeing on fire hydrants. We put on display our framed photographs, our parchment diplomas, our silver-plated cups; we monogram our linen, we carve our names on trees, we scrawl them on washroom walls. It’s all the same impulse. What do we hope from it? Applause, envy, respect? Or simply attention, of any kind we can get?
At the very least we want a witness. We can’t stand the idea of our own voices falling silent finally, like a radio running down.
—Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
Margaret Atwood will be a guest of the 2013 Perth Writers Festival in February.
From one of my favourite books on the craft of writing…
Mastery [of the art of writing] is not something that strikes in an instant, like a thunderbolt, but a gathering power that moves steadily through time, like weather.
—John Gardner, The Art of Fiction
What happens to our past when we can no longer remember?
What an amazing, complicated, unpredictable, enduring and fragile thing is memory. It is like a river. It can silt up and need dredging, it can flood and destroy, it can lose its way. It is like a river of moonlight, evanescent. When it goes dark, navigation is treacherous.
—Janette Turner Hospital, ‘Moon River’, Forecast: Turbulence
… life would be terrible … without death to give it gravitas and shape.
—Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Good Squad
But it’s a shape that Western society generally prefers not to acknowledge.
Once you begin looking, you see punctuation everywhere…
One night they fell asleep, side by side, on Maud’s bed, where they had been sharing a glass of Calvados. He slept curled against her back, a dark comma against her pale elegant phrase.
—A. S. Byatt, Possession