Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Death and the Most Important Thing You Can Do

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."


  1. Sorry for your loss Noisms. My parents' house is similar - books everywhere. I'm back here on holiday over the festive period and there's no shortage of things to pick up and read (currently working my way through som 90s fantasy novels). Yoon-Suin is amazing so I'm very much looking forward to what you come up with in 2016.

  2. My condolences. I lost my Father in March, and my Mother is suffering from advanced dementia, so it's very much like living with her ghost in the house.

    I know well what you mean, 'cos I'm in the same place. They were artists, makers of things and music. That presence is still here, even though the heart of this house has stopped and the light is fading. The role that's fallen to me is to sweep the ashes into as neat a pile as possible, and to keep creating in my own way.

    May 2016 be a better year for us all.

    1. Same to you. We're all brief little lights in the big black void. Best thing you can do is shine as much as you can while you can. :)

  3. Agreed. Keep creating. Looking forward to what comes next. As a person who Creates, one thing I have recently discovered is that Creation encompasses more than the so-called traditional definition. You have my support. Cheers.

  4. You my deepest condolences. I'm fortunate enough that both my parents are yet alive. For what it's worth - the poem you posted was very well done.
    Your post got myself thinking anout how much one destroy ones own work with an attitude that "it's better to do it on oneself, rather to experience someone else do it upon you". Don't take this for anything than what it is: Your post opened my eyes and I'll keep the lesson close to my heart that self-critisism is a path of non-publishing.


  5. I am sorry for your loss, Noisms. I hope to read many of your posts in 2016.

  6. I am sorry for your loss. I am a priest and bury people often. I always let people know, even if they are not
    beleivers, that the Lord is close to their beloved and knows
    their hearts. P.s. I really enjoyed your YNGARR cosmogeny!

  7. Please accept my condolences on the loss of your father, Noisms.

    The most important thing that you can do as an artist, is to get all of your artistic vision out there, because you never know how much time you have and how much of it you will lose to daily thieves of time.

    I hope that 2016 brings you good fortune!

  8. "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."

    It's not an awful thought really - all you can do is make the best of it. Consider it a final gift from him, and your making the best of it as a way of honouring that gift, his memory.

    Thank you for posting this - you've allowed me to see more explicitly what I've done with my own Dad's death.

  9. I'm new to reading your blog, but I was quite moved by this poem by your father. Thanks. Mine passed away and I wrote a few about him, but he never wrote.

    1. Thanks - I'm glad it meant something to you.