Daily life is always quiet in a Dartmoor village where the residents are outnumbered by the sheep, but ever since the UK lock-down started the quality of the silence has deepened, and the greening hills seem to ring with it. No cars pass by. No planes fly overhead. Life moves at a stately walker's pace. Bird song, wind, and water running in the stream behind my studio, have long been the soundtrack of my days, but now their music is crisp and clear, like the unpolluted air itself, and I can feel it entering my writing. I hear it in the words forming on the page.
What stories does silence want to tell? In the days ahead, I'll find out....
"Since childhood," says Scott Russell Sanders, "I’ve been attracted by the musical quality of language, the sound of individual words and the rhythm of lines and sentences. To this day I write very slowly because a sentence has to sound right to me before I’m willing to type it onto a screen. My revising process involves going over and over the prose, listening to it, seeking a vigor and precision and rhythmic pleasure. Attention to sound is bound up, for me, with a regard for silence. The pauses between words or sentences or paragraphs, the white space surrounding the inky trail of letters, these are what give shape to the music. Sound is married to silence. And one shouldn’t interrupt silence unless one has something beautiful or meaningful to say.
"A sense of awe also runs through all of my writing," he adds, "from the feverish poems I wrote in college to the fiction and essays of recent years. This word names a complex emotional response to what is both wonderful and terrifying in our existence. I’ve adapted the Quaker notion of spiritual openings to describe those moments of awe. Often in my writing I’m seeking to make a home for such openings."
And so am I.
Words: The quotes are from an interview with Scott Russell Sanders in Superstition Review, Issue 5. I highly recommend his books, particularly Writing From the Center -- but they're all good. The poem in the picture captions is from Poetry Magazine, February 2006. All rights reserved by the author.
Pictures: A coffee break underneath our favourite old oak. One of the local Dartmoor pony herds comes thundering by...and just when we think they've all gone past, Tilly has a surprising encounter.