On the malleability of voice

by Michelle

My edits are finished and my book is now at the printers…I am indebted to Ivor Indyk for his sensitive appreciation of the malleability of voice in Letter to Pessoa. It will be launched next month in Sydney by Michelle de Kretser.

A few weeks ago I went to the Frida Kahlo exhibition; wonderful to see this collection of self-portraits, paintings, drawings, inscriptions, photographs, videos from the collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman. I was particularly taken with one, a photograph by  Lola Alvarez Bravo from 1944, which invites a consideration of the painter as subject:


Writing can do this; it’s a part of why I blog, it’s part of my interest in the fragment self and the double life of performing and erasing who we are.

Because I want to go back as I go forward, is why I write. Because of whom I left at the terminal, what thoughts and feelings came to me as the plane ascended, the vast sweep of a city, its forests and glittering skyscrapers, its river tributaries reclaimed, reaching farther into places foreign to my eyes, the vista of cumulo nimbus cloud …

I am going back to Negative Capability, which for several years was the title of this blog. Keats wrote  that the ‘poetical character… has no self—it is everything and nothing—it has no character and enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated—it has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philosopher delights the camelion Poet… A Poet is the most unpoetical of anything in existence, because (s)he has no identity, (s)he is continually filling some other body.’ (the bracket(s) are mine.)

I felt I wanted to be Michelle Cahill, but deeply, incoherently, there are things within which I cannot apprehend: my pains, my past uttering itself in fragments. It may happen abruptly but also slowly like a glacier retracting indiscernibly so that the effect is visible. “I have suffered two serious accidents in my life,” wrote Frida.

I turned after such an incident and in the distance I could see a speck: a boat dashed against rocks. The wind had entered my life and changed me; there I lived and was held and carried safely.