My Dad died at the end of October. It's one of those events which you can't really predict the effect of on yourself, at all, beforehand (except insofar as banal things like, "You'll be upset"). One thing that surprised me was that it gave me a new found belief, maybe a faith, even, in creativity.
My Dad was a decent poet and writer. He had both poems and short stories published here and there during the course of his life, but never quite made it - a combination of a lack of focus and being easily discouraged, I think. Like a lot of very talented people, he had next to no faith in his own abilities, and I expect (like many of us) was able to pick his own work apart to the point at which he lost the confidence to show it to anybody else.
One thing that he always instilled in me, without my really noticing it, was an understanding that creating art actually means something. When I was a kid it seemed he was always talking about books he'd read, films he'd seen, exhibitions he'd been to, music he was listening to. He wasn't well educated, being a working class lad from Glasgow, but that didn't matter: I am currently sitting in my parents' kitchen writing this entry and, as in most rooms in my childhood home, it has a bookcase. On it, among dozens of others, are books by Michael Parenti and Javier Marias, Kobo Abe's The Woman in the Dunes, Jack Kerouac's The Sea is my Brother, a complete collection of Charles Dickens' novels, something by Zizek, and a biography of Joe Meek. Bear in mind, this is the kitchen. You don't want to imagine the living room or dining room.
So from childhood I was indoctrinated with the idea that writers, artists, film-makers, etc., are the best and most important kind of people; that engaging with the world through the creative arts is one of the best and most important things you can do; that in writing a book or a poem, or painting a picture, or whatever, you are making other people feel something, and that is one of the best and most important things there is. But I never really realised that I believed this too, until after he had died.
I do believe it, though. Now that he's gone and I realise we won't be having conversations about books or films anymore, I get it. The act of creation is, if anything, underrated. And if my father's death has achieved anything (what an awful thought), I guess it has made me appreciate that in a way which I hadn't quite previously. Which is all quite a roundabout way of saying, in 2016 I think you'll be seeing quite a bit more from me in terms of actual published projects.
I hesitate to do this on a public blog entry, but here it is anyway: the last poem my Dad wrote, in 2013. He was already quite ill at this point - he had a very rare brain condition which caused rapid deterioration in his faculties. So it isn't his best work. But it's an appropriate poem.
To fall silent.
This is the last great ambition
That no one achieves. Not
even after death.
As if nothing has stopped resonating
since the beginning. Not even when
we can no longer trace or recognise the living.
We live, alert to innumerable voices
Distant and unruffled
The feeble echoes of unrecorded lives
Whose cries have seethed
Since yesterday and for centuries
"We have lived and we have died."