Self and reality. Symbol and language. Myth and image. Memory and consciousness.
Dream and unreality: locus communis.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Same Dirt Road through the Woods

Failed to mention that this last November, I was interviewed by The Fertile Source. One question in particular struck a chord with me due to the nature of the query.

FS: In “As A Figure of Hermes” the narrator open with the writer’s dilemma: “A moment of confrontation: me and the blank paper,” dilemma enough without the presence of a child to raise and love and imagine a life for over the rest of one’s days. Eventually the narrator latches onto the metaphor of Hermes, sliding into reverie about mortal son. Can you speak to the relationship between fatherhood and writing? How has fatherhood come to bear on your writing life?

DGS: With the experience of becoming a father last year, and the whole process of the adoption of our son Brendan, I quickly fell into a mode of redefining myself. Almost immediately a whole new understanding of my goals and aspirations emerged—I know it sounds cliché, but once the title of Father is attributed to you, a strange mindset develops without warning: no matter how much mental preparation you are supplied.

The poem in particular was a projection of a future possibility once Brendan reached his middle teen years—written before a birth mother had even matched with us. What I find interesting, although the projection of him as a dark-haired boy is inaccurate, my fear of a loss of communication with him is very similar to the fear of losing touch with my creative energies. Once, in the mid Nineties, I experienced a long spell of writer’s block, partly self-imposed, partly circumstance. My fear of the blank page echoes my fear of Brendan not understanding the creative energy of a writer-father.

At the time I left my answers somewhat short— however, ironically, more than once a full multi-page essay could have been generated as a response. As an example, I realize my fear of writer's block is the same fear of possible failure as a father— and until now— I never connected the two feelings. My above reply limits my reactions in a self-centered manner, that is, I address Brendan's emotions towards me, rather than addressing my emotions returned to him. To be more balanced I should add that of course as a writer I have a relationship with my poetry, just as intense as my relationship with my son. At one time I thought the two were separate from each other, running different paths, heading off in different directions. Now of course it is plain that the two elements run along the same dirt road through the woods, the same goal, the same resolution. My son has become my poetry, more-so than any metaphor could express.

It all comes down to identity and definition of the self. The titles of "poet" and "father," even "partner," "son," and "brother," braid together within the components of self awareness and creative output; these multiple labels in the end are all reaffirming who I am today.

Read the full interview:


  1. Ahhhh yes...identity...and how we choose to define "the self" or, our self...
    It is uplifting to me that you choose a positive path. You are "reaffirmed".
    I am still anxious about the way in which the labels we are given by both language and by the culture we inhabit limit our understanding of who we are...and thus of what we can do and be...
    I am also interested in how much our cultures differ.
    I am old Europe. You are the new world. It occurs to me (and I am prepared to be wrong) that the cynicism (fashionable at times and adopted as a suit of armour) which characterises old Europe is at odds with the optimism and positivity of your own culture, or of America...
    And in Scotland the psyche tends to be about limitations and "doing oneself down". Maybe this is a foreign concept your side of "the pond"? I am so interested to know what you think.

  2. Recently you mentioned some issues with identity in one of your posts— putting a ghost influence in my head over the weekend.

    In a way I was surprised when you said Scotland is "Old World Europe"— but upon reflection I see your point. And yes, the "New World" attitudes can be at odds with Europe. In more ways than one. Although these days the average American is less optimistic than in the past decades... many different factors lie openly in this situation, like a wound.

    I "googled" the expression you used: "doing oneself down"— find it a fascinating idea, a new phrase to trip off the tongue. On a non-academic site someone posted an American-English translation. Apparently we use the expression "To sell oneself short" as a warped mirror version of your phrase. In both cases the expressions are negative. Our idiom basically addresses the situation where someone is not complimentary to their given talents as a means to appear less vain, —or not promoting themselves or their talents in order to remain in the background and not cause confrontations. In my students I have seen this situation in an alarming increasing rate. Women usually who are intelligent do not want to be seen as intelligent to the rest of the class. Which frustrates me, extremely!! I love to talk about literature and character development. I love examining how and why a character is shown in the course of a complex plot. But then I get students who put on their "zombie-faces," staring straight ahead, afraid to let their theories be heard or debated. To make it worse, the same quiet student later reveals their heightened book-smarts after class as I am packing up my satchel and leaving for another class. Growl.

  3. Haha...oh yes! The epidemic of dumbing down is rife here! Though we've noticed it most strikingly with boys as opposed to girls. It just isn't trendy or cool to be seen as intelligent or interested in art/literature etc.
    I understand only too well the female impulse to suppress intelligence. It is often a massive part of the "mating ritual"!! In the sense that a strong intelligent woman can be intimidating or off-putting to men. Not my style of course - but I have understood the impulse to do that.
    There is something else that we in Scotland do - which I suspect is strange to the American ear...
    We "pull people down to size"...very often this will consist of telling an ostensibly successful person that you "knew his faither" or reminding that person that you "know where he came from". This is supposed to remind someone not to forget their roots nor get "too big for their boots".
    We are a nation who are not terribly comfortable with success. We do not applaud it - we tend to be wary of it. And it is seen as very poor show to speak openly of personal achievements...
    Yip, bizarre - or "nowt as queer as folk"!