Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 15– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.
A little while back I admitted that I suffered from imposter syndrome; also, that I was sometimes afflicted with writers’ block. The imposter syndrome, in my case, often takes the form of dreams where I’m a complete klutz- I can do nothing right. Two dream scenarios are common- in one I’m waiting side of stage to make my entrance in a crucial scene when I remember I didn’t bother to learn my lines. In another, I’m at a school darting down corridors desperately trying to find the class I have to take for rollcall. Now don’t worry! That’s it- no more relating of dream sequences which always induce tedium in me when others regale me with their nocturnal narratives.
No, this is just stage dressing for what happened the other morning when my daughter woke me at an unearthly hour to take her to work. She jolted me out of one of the rollcall dreams- for which I was thankful. Driving back, after leaving her at her place of employment, I resolved to kill two birds with one stone- I would address my imposter syndrome and writers’ block simultaneously! It is not uncommon for those suffering writers’ block to set themselves a challenge: say, writing a sonnet on the topic of insomnia. I determined to write a song about the imposter syndrome using the rhyme scheme of the sonnet!
Why make it so hard? Because it helps- sometimes. Because I’d already tried the easy way- a glass or two of fine Irish whiskey, which, while enjoyable, did nothing to address my dual affliction. And so, the hopeful journeyman songster and sonneteer began his labours, settling on a stretched hybrid Shakespearean /Petrarchan rhyme scheme, abba, cddc, efef, ghgh, iiiii! Good Lord! I nearly broke into a Caribbean ditty there! But that would be a bum steer– to employ a quaint Americanism. Instead, I utilised folk instruments and chord sequences for the song. From the initial image of a guy on a beach throwing away something precious, I proceeded to unpack a series of misfortunes for the hapless protagonist. I think somewhere along the line the song transformed into a sort of love song-slash-apology, but that’s OK, it solved my writers’ block/ imposter syndrome problem for just a little while, and that’s what counts. Small mercies and all that. Here is the something new: with the title, Who Would [insert song]
On now to the Letter this Postscript has decided to attach itself to. Yes, it’s ex post facto: after the fact. I had not known at the outset where it would ultimately land. But that it would land somewhere among the Letters From Quotidia, I was relatively sanguine. And so it proved: Letter 46 published on 30th March 2021 gets this PS. The letter references the mid-1990s when the next song was written and quoted from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence: you know the lines, To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And a Heaven in a Wildflower,/Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/And Eternity in an hour.
Look up mad poet in an illustrated dictionary- you might just see an image of the visionary versifier looking out at you! Wikipedia informs us that the 19th-century scholar William Michael Rossetti characterised him as a “glorious luminary” and “a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors” A unique poetic talent, painter, and printmaker, he was a committed Christian who was antagonistic to almost all forms of organised religion.
A couple of his poems have the phrase divine image as part of the title that I’ll give as examples which demonstrate his capacity for dichotomies: first, in its entirety, A Divine Image, which has only two quatrains: Cruelty has a human heart,/And Jealousy a human face;/Terror the human form divine,/And Secrecy the human dress.//The human dress is forged iron,/The human form a fiery forge,/The human face a furnace sealed,/The human heart its hungry gorge.// Seems rather definitive to me, but then, I’m not Blake: For Mercy has a human heart,/Pity a human face,/And Love, the human form divine,/And Peace, the human dress.//Then every man, of every clime,/That prays in his distress,/Prays to the human form divine,/Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.//
This is an extract from The Divine Image, and, sorry, I am unable to disentangle the theological implications of these lines for you. I’m not even able to suggest why the indefinite article “A” attached to the first “Divine Image” poem presages such dire content or why the definite article “The” attached to the second “Divine Image” poem presages such soothing imagery. I am on surer ground when introducing the song that accompanies this part of the Postscript, which is the something old of the sequence. I started writing Everything Goes, shortly after learning, courtesy of illness, that I was not bullet-proof back in the mid-1990s. I was dissatisfied with it and couldn’t work out why, so I left it and started to write a pean to music and love, entitled Restless Paces, which was also OK, but about which I remained less than satisfied. And then, one afternoon, I stitched them together with a linking musical line and-voila– in my humble opinion, it worked! [insert song]
And incidentally- the portmanteau song just heard was one of twenty or so that I recorded in a small studio up the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, in early 2000 while I was on long-service leave. The digital revolution that would place home recording in just about everyone’s reach had not fully developed, and so I drove up to a studio in Hazelbrook with my notebooks, guitar, and mandolin to set down a series of songs I intended to use in a musical play I was writing called And Leave Him There. It premiered, belatedly, on WordPress between 10th and 21st of January 2022, as part of the Letters From Quotidia, comprising 10 parts- each of 20 or so minutes’ duration.
But now, as I wrap up this Postscript, I’d like to refer to a poem that intensifies in meaning and relevance for me as the days, weeks and months give way to years and, alas, decades- I mean TS Eliot’s great poem, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. Did you know that the poem that single-handedly kickstarted the modernist movement of poetry in English was conceived by a Harvard undergraduate, painfully shy around women? Who took up the noble art- boxing- to bolster his self-esteem and confidence?
And what song is that, coming at me out of leftfield, that’s auditioning to pair with the poetical magnificence of Prufrock? Let me examine its credentials: a country song made famous by Jim Reeves in 1960, mmm. About a man who pleads with his woman to tell a rival to buzz off as he tries to win her back over the phone, Ooh Kay… The persona of the song is the sort of man that the poet and Prufrock could only dream of being. Fair enough. Here’s my take on He’ll Have To Go [insert song]
I’ll end with a few lines of this great poem: There will be time, there will be time/To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;/There will be time to murder and create,/And time for all the works and days of hands/That lift and drop a question on your plate;/Time for you and time for me,/And time yet for a hundred indecisions/And for a hundred visions and revisions…Do I dare/Disturb the universe?/In a minute there is time/For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse…And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,/When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,/Then how should I begin/To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?…I am no prophet- and here’s no great matter;/I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker…And would it have been worth it, after all…To have bitten off the matter with a smile/To have squeezed the universe into a ball/To roll it towards some overwhelming question,/ Ahh, the overwhelming question. I am still trying to formulate this question for myself!
Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.
Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text.
For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.