We all remember “National Velvet” right? The 1944 Technicolor picture based on a novel (1935) by Enid Bagnold. The movie made Elizabeth Taylor a star at 12, and created her lifelong addiction to various painkillers, because of back problems due to falling off the horse during filming. She played a character named Velvet Brown. Funny, when I was little, I always thought the horse was “Velvet.” Seemed more fitting.
I thought I’d investigate Bagnold a little, Dame Jones (1889-1981), a starchy privileged Brit whose novels are forgotten footnotes from a well-mannered age that believed in genteel quasi-amateur creation of consumable literature. What I found was a surprising degree of honesty and inspiration. Why that was surprising I will have to do more introspection to determine. In the meantime, I share these Bagnold “pearls” with you, dear readers.
“Nothing can make live again one single day, except art. Telling won’t do it. Memory isn’t enough. Every day has leaked like a sieve ever since the beginning. The extraordinary thing about life is that it is made of single days—each one killed at nightfall. And the limit of looking forward is twenty-four hours.”
“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. To ‘Why am I here?’ To uselessness. It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
Since I am planning to publish a new volume of poetry next year, I practically gasped when I read this, though I believe it was Bagnold’s friend Ralph Hodgson who actually said it. “You can only write poetry on a breath. At first it’s a short breath. And if it stops you mustn’t pad. If you keep waiting and waiting the breath gets longer.”
And, if you fall off the horse, get right back on again and ride.
© 2013 by Frank Daykin, for Innovative Music Programs