DREAM LIFE THE WAY YOU THINK IT OUGHT TO BE
Was I idealistic as a teenager? Whilst I don't remember myself as being so, that could just be retrospective self-censorship. A blinkering way of seeing myself as - 'not the idealistic sort.' Its true, though concerned, I rarely put much energy into political, social or environmental campaigns or activism. I was not affronted enough by the imperfections of the world. Large scale 'we must change the world' philosophies, I found unconvincing. In my experience lasting transformations are individual ones. Visionary revolutions, not founded on the mass confluence of individual desires for change, inevitably end up with intolerance and oppression. Yet my reluctance to pin slogan badges onto my lapel, didn't mean I lived passively in a self-contained bubble. If I look objectively at what I chose to do, its clear that I was driven by an often quite passionate desire to make the world in some way more beautiful.
There was, however, frequently a disparity between what I allowed myself to believe I could do, and what I envisaged myself becoming in my more unconstrained and florid moments of fantasy. I did dream of myself, my life and the world in a way that I thought it ought to be. Though I was frightened of these dreams failing me. Fearful of their perceived fragility, as though their loss would crush me. On occasions this did prove to be so. Paradoxically it was the untested dreams or aspirations that remained unfulfilled, that I found hardest to bear. My heart has been depressed, by too many dreams staying perfectly wrapped up in my imagination. After a while these expire, quietly,without kicking up a fuss- but leave a lingering mist of condensed decay.
A typically intense, yet shy teenager I escaped into extrovert fantasies, whilst really being easily intimidated and risk averse. A bit more push and plucky initiative from me may have worked. But that was not how I was, no matter how much I might have cajoled or castigated myself at the time. As a naïve, yet hope-filled, young man, I neither fully understood how the world worked, nor really what motivated or made me tick. I thought being successful in life was all down to self command, self-control and self-discipline. All things that at the time I saw my self as lacking. So frequently I expended my youthful energy boxing myself into a pugilistic corner. The bruises that still remain were all of my own making.
In 1974 I was seventeen, and I'd moved to Hull to do a years Arts Foundation Course. For the first time I had full liberty to be and do what I wanted. I found out who I could be, what I wanted from life, without the constraints of home, or my desires being mediated in anyway through my parents. I discovered what being independent could be like. I was rather anxious, with a slippery grasp on confidence. I was a bit internally conflicted; caught between a natural impulse to be gregarious, outgoing and genial, and often feeling insecure, introspective and too internally preoccupied to express that. Some days I could ease gently into extroversion, and everything would flow and flourish. On others it was like that more ebullient self was lying comatose in a darkened room, leaving me hiding behind my poetry book in the corner of a local pub, whilst nursing a beer. This on/off dichotomy in how I interact with the world, is something I've come to know all too well.
Early Teenage Dreams
The melodramas of teenage dreaming. Imaginations only just past childhood reach out for what may or may not be unattainable. Are these innocent dreamworks possible or impossible? Pure and as yet untransformed by contact with the crucible of the world. All adult life lies ahead. Still a series of questions to which there are few incontrovertible answers. Who knows exactly who or what you might become? There's a sense for how the cards are cast, but not what might be made of them. All is to play for. Those first cathartic moments of disillusion and disappointment, the anger and angst. Overly dramatic and critical of life and the world, they set the colour and tone for future dreaming about the world– the search for a pristine and more golden utopia.
I dreamt of becoming a poet
It started almost with the first burst of teenage hormones, science fiction and David Bowie. There's a strong vein of extra-terrestrial madness running through my early poetry. What they lack in skill of execution, is made up for with naïve ebullience. They're not good. I thought I shouldn't actually read other poets, in order to preserve the unique untainted nature of my talent. Once I found an enthusiasm for Dylan Thomas, things improved - rhetorically. The poetic muse has always had an erratic heartbeat, mostly murmuring these days when I'm on retreat. A good indicator though for what's going on in the deeper end of the swimming pool.