Recently I found out that a literary magazine (Takahē, published quarterly here in New Zealand) is keen to publish one of my short stories. In the same week, I learned that I am one of two runners-up in a writing competition I entered a couple of months ago. (I can’t tell you any more details as they are embargoed until April.)
People have told me that they enjoy my writing, but I guess I am only starting to believe that I may have a future as a writer – and quite a good one – as these official, not-huge-but-big-enough endorsements find their way to my Inbox. They are accepted tentatively, slightly incredulously, but very happily.
I had a feeling those two pieces of work would do well when I sent them off. They felt…right, and complete, as though they had both captured the essence of me and encapsulated the kind of writer I want to be. Somehow your gut just knows when you have managed to satisfactorily pour a tiny bit of the universe into those imperfect vessels we call words.
I say satisfactorily and not perfectly, because I do not believe writers can ever perfectly capture life in language. It is impossible. As I sit here and struggle to express my reasons for believing this, I am reminded of a poem I wrote some years ago, no doubt during my teenage years of angst and acne.
When the Big Night falls
I will call to myself,
for only I will listen.
When the darkness starts to wrap me round
like a sleepy lover
there will be but I, safe in a sea of no-one.
There will be islands.
But I will not call to you on yours,
for although you will long for a bridge
you will not be able to build it.
There have always been islands,
and words wandering in the in-between;
Words that try
earnest and stupid and
awkward in their efforts, to express
our clumsy desires and
Words of faith and hope and the greatest of these,
words rushing blindly to rescue one another
from nothingness and desperately stumbling to fill that gap we ignorantly call understanding
There have always been I-Lands
but never bridges.
So when that Big Night falls
I will call to myself,
for only I will
Whew. Puberty must have hit me hard.
I think that from early on I was aware not only of the power of language but also of its desperate frailty. And yet, it is all we have. And sometimes, it is enough.
Many of you will have read my earlier post “Family Pass”, in which I described my battle with recurrent miscarriage and secondary infertility. The piece was published in a New Zealand magazine in December.
After the issue went on sale the editor contacted me a few times, telling me they had received considerable feedback on my article, and that it had obviously struck a chord. Here are two excerpts from letters to the editor:
“I read the article with tears streaming down my face as I could relate to everything that was written…Thank-you again for touching on an issue that is so relevant not just for myself but I am sure for many women.”
“It was a great article – brave and emotional – a big thank you to Patricia for writing it and hopefully making more people aware…”
These endorsements are like gold to me. They illustrate that no matter how imperfect, how inadequate language may be, sometimes it is enough to build bridges – however rickety and ephemeral – that can take us where we need to be: closer to one another.