‘I’m not myself today.’ Pregnant phrase. Who then?
What was your real work? You asked the question so often without answers that the question itself became a form of work. You found yourself tunnelling through a mountain of words. Then out of the tunnel you came smuggling your dubious hoard, over the barriers and across the fields, and looked around, halfway between your destination and everything you left unfinished.
So, there were those long walks of unravelling, where you went out with no fixed purpose, no special destination, seeking the space that is yourself. Maybe such vacancy was all you sought to lose, then find, your wish being to move through the city simply as a presence, stepping free of intentions and timetables, as if invited to a secret celebration.
On some days it was too beautiful for you to be able to say anything at all, like foliage trapped behind glass. Until this February morning as you stand at an upstairs window, while all around a certain quite definite silence waits. Then it comes, that sense of being here and not here, all things chiming at once in an epiphany of absence, and for a moment you are quite lost in it.
— John Welch, from ‘There and Back’
As things are, and as fundamentally they must always be, poetry is not a career, but a mug’s game. No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written: he may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing.
— TS Eliot
Hope bespeaks the possibility of what escapes the realm of the possible; at the limit, it is relation recaptured where relation is lost. Hope is most profound when it withdraws from and deprives itself of all manifest hope. But at the same time we must not hope, as in a dream, for a chimerical fiction. It is against this that the new hope appoints itself. Hoping not for the probable, which cannot be the measure of what there is to be hoped for, and hoping not for the fiction of the unreal, true hope — the unhoped for of all hope — is an affirmation of the improbable and a wait for what is.
— Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation (trans. S. Hanson)
I have long begged off the question of my albums reflecting where I am “at” personally. There is more inaccuracy in that approach than accuracy. I tend to hope people will meet me halfway. The “halfway” point is, “here’s some music, forget about the particulars of the feller before you, let’s listen to it and see what happens.”
But there is the half that gets left off, the half that never gets told. There has definitely been a transition of some sort, an upheaval, which started three or so years ago. You’ve come at an unfortunate time in that I am still trying to sort it all out. I cannot tell you exactly what is going on now. I look at my hands and I don’t know what they wrought in the past. Are they the hands of a bad man? I used to be an artist. I don’t think I am right now. I don’t know if I ever will be again. I am something else. I was a student of personal strife. I ran with the wrong crowd early on. I tortured myself for a song. I thought it was the way. These things changed many years ago, but those stubborn barnacles remained buttoned to my cape. In shrugging off the cape of Smog and running — I am still in the giddy and running stage, where you can’t believe how easy it was to shrug off. I figure I will be giddy and running for another album or so. I’ve got six different sketches for albums that lay ahead of me. Usually how it works is something will come in to usurp all of those plans at the last minute.
— Bill Callahan