Parenthood, house-selling, trying to write shapely poems and a poem-sequence (or is it a novel, or is it a cross-breed, a povel, a book of noetry?) and another novel (or is it a poor failed misconception that will never reach full term?) mean that regular entries here are often deferred.
Part of my intention in starting a blog was to publish things like launch speeches, footnotes related to my books, MC notes, and maybe reviews, so that I had an archive of otherwise fleeting material. As it happens, the lifey sphere (house, children, money-work) has almost completely taken over the literary sphere for the past, oooohhhhhh, is it six months? A year?
Until this month. When I can at last say that I’ve hit some kind of rhythm in the great gift of a writing fellowship. (Of course, now it’s only two weeks until the school holidays, so … I’ll lose the beat again.)
But in the hope that I don’t completely fall behind the rest of the orchestra (all the other writers I imagine out there being endlessly productive, wise, balanced, calm, turning manuscripts, completed books, blog entries, and signed contracts in their hands as apparently-effortlessly as the young juggler we saw twirling translucent globes at the Dunedin Fringe Festival recently)… I thought I’d pin up a brief, recent speech here.
For the first time in the history of the University of Otago arts fellow welcomes, apparently, the fellows this year were asked to respond at their reception, which was held at the Hocken Library last Thursday. Robbie Ellis, Nick Austin, James Norcliffe and I were all greeted eloquently and warmly by university staff.
This was my reply:
Professor Hayne, Professor Moloughney, Ms Susan Dell, Professor Lyn Tribble, fellow fellows, and most patient audience….
I just wanted to say that one of the uses to which I’ve already put the generosity of the Robert Burns Fellowship, is to educate myself in how few entries for ‘thank you’ there are in Roget’s Thesaurus.
I was hoping I’d come across some fizz-bang, whirly-gig, lesser known ways of expressing gratitude, acknowledgement, indebtedness, the overflow of happily beholden obligation, offering recognition, praise, requital, and singing to my lucky stars. And preferably something less histrionic than falling to my knees. I wanted a word to spring out of Roget’s with the trigger for a poem, so I could read it tonight and tender a quick return on the Burns committee’s time and investment.
But the synonyms in Roget’s first entry under ‘retrospective sympathetic affection’ were rather sparse. I’ve used them all already. Apparently this thin state of the language is getting worse. An alarmingly lurid pop-up ad from an online dictionary I used, alongside my old paperback thesaurus, gave me a visual bawling out this week, warning that the English language is closing down. “Words are dying!” it said. Statisticians have crunched numbers to reveal English is losing words every day and at a greater rate than ever before. If the research is at all valid, I suppose that writers’ fellowships and universities will have to act as etymological eco-sanctuaries — or mainland islands, in New Zealand idiom — re-foresting, re-birding, re-blossoming the language.
Nothing for it, then, but to follow my nine-year-old’s example. He’s coined his own word for occasions like tonight, when he’s brimming with nervous apprehension, mixed with happy expectation. Nix-cited. Similar hybrids seem like the best way to describe the privilege of holding the Burns. I’m thank-tatic, grate-elated, over-mazed, a-whelmed, jubilesque, happ-lirious, dumb-less, speech-founded, non-discombobulated: nimble-sticking and harvesting moon-clover all the way. Thank you!