I have a problem reading myself for a second time. I can barely read it for the first time at all. I write a piece of work, I try to read it again with an editing eye and I get strangely disgusted. I can barely make it through to the end. When I eventually do, I see only the things in my head, and not the words on the sheet, and I find that I have not edited it at all, but just endured another needless ordeal of re-reading.

I am lazy. With fiction, I fail with imagination but succeed somewhat with memory. I may thrive on details but sag on the fictive dexterity of their expression. I’m not a writer, and I know it. I am only a bearer of stories. With poetry, it becomes a little different. The muse descends, rides me roughly like the spirit in a possessed body, and leaves, leaving something pretty behind that I sometimes like to read again and again, although it scarcely leaves space to take full credit. So I can’t write a poem on the spot to save my life, or so I like to think. I will find out perhaps when there’s a gun to my head and an loud order to “Show me you’re a poet. Write something before I waste your brain on this concrete floor.”

Knowledge is for philosophers. Imagination is for writers. Only one of them changes the world, and -hint, hint- it’s not knowledge. Really. So as soon as I can exchange my junk of knowledge for liberty of imagination, I will be a writer. Until then, let me just be me, the quiet observing traveller in this American wilderness. Perhaps also, a bearer of stories.

(Picture credits: A fridge sticker at the house of Nigerian writer Ikhide Ikheloa, taken in Maryland on the 14th December 2009)

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