Writing on the Move

The road, or the tracks, or the air, or the sea, all of these, make words more immediate. I’m on the move, soon enough. We’re comprised of moments and of journeys, which are process rather than product. A fellow writer I’ve just recently made contact with sent me skimming through old notebooks looking for certain words: give me poetry, he said. Notebooks are full of words laid down in the process of moving: poems and scraps, the notes of the journey itself, people and ways of seeing, sketches of characters barely formed come to the scratched ink surface.

What makes the words of notebooks laid out like this so immediate? Just as the impressionists painted the light, there and then, in media res, in the midst of things, so too are the words on the move so much — what? Purer? Refined? Raw? It’s the rawness of the pen or pencil marks, the movement of the lurch of the mode of transport, the seaspray on the pages, the crumpled edges that make the words . . . more.

I’m wandering through times gone by: I write on the Greyhound bus, from Boston down through Harlem and Manhattan, spiderwriting (it’s difficult to see in the process, as we travel back north by night, a single light above my head on the back seat); I write in the air, always in the air, compressed but needing to write out the journey; I write on the ridiculous lean of the high speed train from Malmö to Stockholm, making myself sick in the process; I write in between flights at airport concourses, sat in bus terminals in Basque country, in little rooms in the former East Germany, in the Danish wilderness, somewhere in Paris . . .

Writing in the mind, whilst travelling, is spiderwritten too. When the notebook isn’t easy to reach, or when I’m travel-filthy and tired, I watch. I think of words I will write. The process needs to be caught. There is no product because it shifts on each new reading, years down the line.

I’m on the move because I need to move, and because moving is a way of finding words too. It is the rawness of the wind and the air, of the light and the day, of the hunger or the cold, or the heat or the night, all of this, which give the words their rawness of edge.

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