Moody Me: Chasing a Feeling

For all my efforts to understand what makes a piece of writing good or ways to break it down into lessons that I or my students or maybe even you might try to apply, sometimes I really think there’s nothing to know but that truth follows truth. The only time I really want to write is when I’m shrouded in a mist, when my whole being is caught up by a feeling. There’s a sense of euphoria sometimes, or maybe it’s bordering more on mania others. Sometimes it’s heavy and I’m blue. It’s hard to recall the many ways it moves over me, but when I feel this swelling up of emotion, this bottling up sensation, the only way to release some of the anxiety I feel, the frenetic restless pulse inside, is just simply to sit down at last and write.

It’s hard to trust this kind of writing, though, because I have a tendency to love it when maybe it’s only the release of energy I’m moved by. Even so, most of the things I’m proudest of were written this way. They still convey something that deeply matters to me, deeply moves me. Too much of what I wrangle onto the page later embarrasses me, but not this stuff, not usually.

My husband and I are about to take a trip to Ireland, and I’m steeping myself in the culture. It’s such a small country but one with such a massive personality. I’ve started a travel blog to record our experiences. I’m listening to the Chieftains, the Corrs, Van Morrison. I’m stopped in my tracks by Van Morrison, every single time. And this song I found tonight has totally eclipsed the light mood I was feeling just minutes earlier as we considered the possible perils of driving on the wrong side of the road or whether we should try black pudding or not.

There’s a nice interview with Morrison in the archives of Rolling Stone, which paints him as a poet, one of the few originals, who seems “a medium through which the voices of bards and mystics…; of children and lovers; of rivers and mountains; and of blues, gospel and jazz singers join and interfuse. ”

At one point in the interview, Morrison says this: “You find that you’re pulled by different things at different times. You find that something is pulling you that you have to get to because it’s telling you different things about yourself. And I just kind of go where the pull is strongest at the time.” Later on, he says, “It’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t think it, it’s a feeling that comes through. It doesn’t come from any kind of intellectual thing on my part, it comes from folk lore and rhyme.”

How many more times will it take to hear this refrain for me to finally stop trying to figure it out and just let it lead me? Or as Van Morrison puts it, let the song sing me?

Take a listen to Van Morrison singing “Sometimes We Cry.” Or give “Hungry for Your Love” a listen. Or finally, my favorite: “Tupelo Honey.”

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