Today is the birthday of the renowned British poet and artist, William Blake, born on this day in 1757. Despite now being acclaimed as one of Britain’s greats in the fields of art and literature, Blake lived in near poverty for much of his life and died with his talent mostly unrecognised.
Blake’s work was pivotal in the Romanticism movement which was characterised by an increasing interest in the role of man and nature, in emotion, the power of the imagination, mysticism and the rights of the individual. He lived through a great period of social change – the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution; and much of his work can be viewed as social commentary.
One of my favourite pieces, Jerusalem, is really an ode to brotherhood.
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
I wonder if it is coincidence that on the day of such a great poet’s birthday I got another rejection letter for one of my poems. The tally is now 175. I am always a bridesmaid but never a bride when it comes to getting a poem published. Sometimes it irks like a stone in my shoe, sometimes I can see the humour in it. If it were a matter of life and death I could not write a worthwhile poem. I have realised that I am not a poet.
But you know what? I really don’t mind. I got a nice rejection letter. A handwritten rejection letter from a poetry editor who said that even though she couldn’t use my work right now she hoped I would consider submitting more work in the future.
In the same pile of mail, in a little brown envelope made from recycled paper, was a cheque for a short story I submitted over 6 months ago. I had almost given up on it but there it was just in time for Christmas. The editor said she liked my originality and imagination. On the birthday of a man who prized imagination above many other things, that editor’s comment is a gift indeed. I agree with William Blake when he said:
” Imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself.”
I have decided to call enough, already on the poetry writing. I am taking those 175 rejection slips that sit like bricks in my desk drawer, straight to the recycling bin. I think I kept them to prove to myself I could rise above the rejection and keep on trying; but now I know I should leave the poetry to the poets so I can continue to do what I love – reading their work.