HOW PREDICTABLE THAT it has taken me such a long time to begin. How brutally predictable. Months after formulating a title, I reluctantly shared it with some fellow travellers by Wangi Falls, in the Northern Territory, when they wondered what name I had for my work. Even then, sitting in the tropical shade after swimming in those sacred falls, I knew I was in trouble. What a lovely title, they said. I agreed then as I agree now. It sounds lovely still when I say it aloud: The Beginning of the Poem. Everybody loves beginnings. And even if everybody doesn’t love poems, people generally seem to love the idea of them, an idea practically and theoretically intact at the poem’s beginning. What a grand and ambitious intention my title seems to express, what discursive evocations it seems to promise. And yet, on that day at Wangi Falls, I had known for months already that it was painful and often impossible to get started on this beginning. How could my work live up to its title? Although disappointing to me, it is perhaps fittingly bathetic that I should struggle to summon the will, and the skill, required to begin a work that is all about beginning.
My intention before writing these paragraphs was that I should by all means avoid such clunking meta-criticism; that in my entry to the text I might even attempt to follow the suave and clarifying tones of Edward Said, whose early work is a major inspiration. But my beginning, if there was ever to be one, would never be such a class act as Said’s Beginnings: Intention and Method. This beginning would and will be messy; already it is a little messy. It is work that simply cannot get started without bringing in what, according to the rules of pertinence, ought to remain outside: my unusual circumstances and discipline for writing such a document (why was I camping in the Northern Territory when I was on a career-repairing fellowship to write this manuscript?); my difficulty in finding any kind of starting point except for this self-conscious flapping; my status anxiety, or rather my discomfort that writing can reveal authorial uncertainty consistent with a lack of literary pedigree; and my near-choking, which reveals a heightened respect for beginnings. As I have found, excessive reverence for the fact that so much rides on how things begin is predictably silencing.
Already a subscriber? Sign in here
If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at email@example.com