I was well on my way to recovery from an illness. I used my convalescence to devour my favourite writers—Scott, Wordsworth, Keats. I knew my body was strong enough for a walk, I stepped out of my confinement to breathe fresh air and give a little exercise to my benumbed legs.
A few minutes’ walk to the right or left of the not-too-busy town would land me into the woods, the ever-green valleys, plateaus that embrace our little shelter. From air, our town would look like a diamond studded in a necklace of natural beauty.
For the umpteenth time I went down the winding path that led to one of the rivulets that flank our town on both sides and supply us with fresh, pure and clear drinking water. The gentle, flowing air, the noiseless ripples and trickles usually had a very great effect on me. Only hunger could wrench me away.
I knew today was somehow special. Mother Nature kindled me to action. I was a man inspired. Thoughts flowed, words gushed forth; the ever-fresh and ever-soothing peace around me was in sharp contrast to the confused and meaningless noise of the town, and the greed and avarice of urban activity had been racing through my mind for years. I felt the Muse had commanded me to reveal myself to the world. I immediately took out the pocket book and the pen I always carried with me. My mind raced and my hand did its best to match its speed.
I came home, burnt the midnight oil to juggle the thoughts around, place words in their slots, edit, refine until I thought I had the desired ‘creation’. Two poems resulted.
disgust is deep within
feel like vomiting
call in blasphemy
call it insinuation
anything you name
yet I ask you
O God! Or whatever you are
what right you had to create me
‘n’ make go through what I have
After great deliberation, I christened the first ‘impotent wrath’ and the second ‘a question’. I was happy. I posted them to a magazine.
I was ‘possessed’. I continued writing. When I felt I couldn’t stand the stifled air of my dingy room, I sought my source of inspiration to draw strength through her pure, fresh, healthy atmosphere. Thus, I reeled off poems and articles. All of them looked good. Even my friends cheered me. It didn’t bother me whether or not they thought me capable, though I must admit the thought did strike me. But surely they wanted me to succeed.
I eagerly awaited the postman to deliver me the letter of recognition, good will and promise. I received letters from near and dear. But not THE letter. Like an expectant father, I waited. Like a student expecting high grades. Like a businessman waiting eagerly for public reaction over a new goods I’d introduced. Like an eager salesperson for a huge order, like an air passenger for the plane to touch down.
Days passed. But time passed slowly. Every second was heavy and dragging. The postman would pass by or deliver letters of little consequence. I kept painting scene after scene. I was like a muddy pool made muddier by the clumsy movements of the bulls. I’d imagine the editor reading my poems—now he’d smile, now he’d frown, now he’d look up as though weighing my choice of words, now I’d see him thumping my back. Now he’d read, now he’d keep it in his tray for another time. Now I’d see him toss my ‘children’ into the wastepaper basket. No, please don’t. Aren’t they worth your attention? Why don’t you give them a try? Suddenly I’d stop. Why should I beg? I knew their worth. If the editor didn’t think so, no problem. I had penned, and that was enough for me, I said to myself defiantly.
Again I’d be angry. Or I’d curse. Burying talent is a past time going on for ages. The world likes to revolve around only ‘the established’. Reads in between the monotonous, circular motion of ‘known’ writers. Sees what the writer hasn’t, heaps praise. But it wouldn’t see what I have.
When my anger was pent up, when I’d hurled all established insults, I’d take out the manuscript, read, reread with the eyes of an editor. I would strain my wits to spot a flaw. To me the style was at least not strained, if not appealing. The poems appeared to me fresh, beautiful like a baby to her mother.
If only I could defend my ‘children’! Who would provide me the chance? Editors in general are merciless creatures. Probably none of them could ‘create’. Who would care to stop and listen? Perhaps my poems were not all that worth. Perhaps they were just bland. Why would the editor be so heartless? Were they to be still-born?
Such and other thoughts raced through my mind day in, day out. I went through my ‘routine’ listlessly. Months passed. Not even a polite regret. Not even an acknowledgement because there would be so many to send and what a time-consuming affair it’d become. It had to be a pitiable burial, it appeared.
I took a vow: I’d no more pity myself or my ‘creations’, I’d no more try to have them published so I wouldn’t have to live through hell, torture myself because somebody didn’t like, didn’t care. I would sing my thoughts to myself, to my muse and perhaps to my wife (if she was willing!).
Somebody shook me vigorously. I woke up with a start. My wife was standing beside my arm chair and my daughter trying to climb on to my ‘equatorial ‘bulge. My wife’s face was as dark as the pregnant sky. A look at my wife’s face warned me of the impending curtain lecture I’d have the honour to listen to. I denied myself the pleasure and before the skies opened out, rushed to school.
The poems were etched in my memory. I wrote them down during my free time in school. Led by a momentary impulse, I wanted to have them published. But then, my temptation vanished when I thought how worse reality could be. The dream was enough experience!
Note: I wouldn’t wonder if, after wading through this ‘unpublished piece’, you thought this was a real experience I did go through. No, this is just an exercise in imagining a budding writer’s feelings. This and other articles were published in The Ethiopian Herald, an Ethiopian newspaper daily.