I’ll start with an old thing which has come to an end. Bear with me on this one. It’s called a palimpsest. In its historical context, a palimpsest is a document – a scroll, or a parchment – which once had a very good use, and was lovingly hand-written by some monk or scholar many years ago with a specific purpose. It may have been devotional, or perhaps irreverent. It might have been a history or a fantasy. In any event, after a number of years this scrap of paper gets somewhat unappreciated, unread, unloved. It’s left on the shelf. It becomes more dust than text.
Then some new scholar or monk who, by virtue of his disposition and occupation, is eager to pinch pennies, comes along. He sees that nobody’s really been reading “Agricultural Reforms Under the Plantagenets” for a while. So rather than splashing out some new, fancy, shiny paper from W H Smiths, he carefully scrapes the top layer of writing from the page. He literally scratches off the words, until they are barely legible. Then he writes “Agricultural Reforms Under the Tudors”, much to everyone’s delight. This document, and this process, can be passed down for generations in this way. It’s an old text, but with new text.
Palimpsest is also, as I say, a process. We receive all of these old stories, poems, concepts, themes, archetypes, laws, fairy tales, and worse, and we re-write them.
We all know this: hence, in a way, this post is a “reintroduction”. It is telling us what we already know. We all know that literature steals, plagiarises and embezzles; that it passes off old work for its own, and bitches about other writers in coffee shops. I certainly do. And what’s more, this is a really, really good thing.
I’m going to be trying to do what any writer – or indeed, any artist – would do. I am going to try to make a small, fragile, beautiful thing blossom. And I am going to fertilise its soil with the exhumed remains of other writers, which I’ve dug up, chopped up, and mulched into a delicious goo. It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? I think it sounds rather fun. And it’s the only way any of us learn to write – or indeed, to read.
I’m going to be hosting the odd guest blog, and getting some collaboration going with other writers and artists. I’ll be writing and rewriting my own poetry, essays, short fiction and the rest, as well as writing and rewriting so many texts which have come before. And so, I’ll start with an old thing which has come to a beginning.