words, I cannot say
drawings + text
high quality print images
6 x 6 inch
signed by the author
AU $35 + postage $8 (australia) $15 (international)
Authors notes: There goes a story found in music history that the great 20th century American blues singer and guitarist, Robert Johnson, went down to the crossroads and when he got there sold his soul to the devil, as to explain his prodigious talent as a musician. It is a story that has become legend surrounding the road to glory as an artist.
The collection of images and the two poems in this book came about from a similar dilemma in my own life. From the crises of numerous double binds that I found myself in over a time frame of about five years. These images done at my own leisure, unplanned and executed quickly during that time frame depict this freefall.
The title, ‘words, I cannot say’ is both a statement and an explanation. A verbal, psycholinguistic situation I often found myself in during this time. Some would call this mutism, there have many labels given to me - complex post truamtic stress and others with more stigma. Language became basic, functional, transactional and a way to placate others yes, no, can I? How lovely. It is no fluke that my own name immediately follows the title.
I am influenced by the artists Marc Chagall and John Lurie and I make images to communicate many things, a lot of which remains unsaid and unsayable in ordinary conversation, not least for none have the time in this busy 21st century yet also because the isolation I both courted by backing myself into a corner, and fought, by refusing to accept the circumstances I found myself in did not allow me the luxury of good conversation with trusted friends to test my ideas on others and so see if they hold any water at all in the non conceptual realm.
The buddhists talk about leaning into a sense of groundlessness, that essentially all is groundless and these images came out of the groundlessness I experienced, where I lost sight of the shore and was at sea.
In this state of groundless, freefall I lost the power of the word.
I have not written anything of note in 5 years. I have a pile of journals and notebooks full of incoherent, deliberately illegible scrawl. To salvage two poems from this for this publication is a miracle. For someone to whom writing to live is a way of survival it has been quite a reveal to find oneself so full of crap. As the meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche would call it, ‘setting sun art’.
I am left with, not so much writers block, but a kind of void where what I have experienced and what I want to say are not congruent with the times, the culture I live in and the volatile social mores of acceptability. That is to say I fear to tell the truth (my truth? Absolute truth? The whole truth and nothing but the truth?). But that is too grandiose, it is simply I fear to speak. Faced with this dilemma my own small place in the status quo is not so much one of powerlessness but automatically defined by others, others who hold the keys to power. And what is that power? To choose for another – to decide who can be free to live as one pleases or who is to be locked up literally and metaphorically.
Any kind of writer, poet, songwriter or creative artist who experiences this paradox cannot but sway towards contemplating things such as censorship, free speech, human rights and the like. At a time when all decide that they must have a voice that it is their right to be heard the question remains, if everyone has a voice who is there to listen? Or, If you have been gifted the chance to use a microphone, use it wisely, say something worthwhile. This is largely an unpopular opinion but It is my own. I feel oppressed in a world of the vox populi.
This has forced me into a kind if hopeless despair at times and at other times an unsolvable contradiction that merely goes round and round paradoxically in my head. If I feel creative and clever I could reframe it as one of those koans the Zen master gives. It certainly does halt my thinking. And is thinking not the primary skill of the writer? Even now I find I often spend my days in a gentle wordless silence with only my own contemplations for company.
It dawned on me a few weeks before collating this book for publication. My own, now very faint, but firm inner voice, with barely any remnants of the tone that has infused the last 30 years of school essays, university essays, creative writing, poetry books, novella, songs and journalling, floated out of me and said
“Now you know, now you really know what it means to be a writer.”