Tag Archives: Patrick White

Putting out shoots of green thought

So he would write a poem of life, of all life, of what he did not know but knew . . . Little bits of coloured thought, that he had suddenly, and would look at for a long time, would go into his poem, and urgent telegrams, and the pieces of torn letters that fall out of metal baskets. He would put the windows that he had looked inside. Sleep, of course, that blue eiderdown that divides life from life. His poem was growing. It would have the smell of bread, and the rather grey wisdom of youth, and his grandmother’s kumquats, and girls with yellow plaits exchanging love-talk behind their hands, and the blood thumping like a drum, and red apples, and a little whisp of white cloud that will swell into a horse and trample the whole sky once it gets the wind inside it.

As his poem mounted in him he could not bear it, or rather what was still his impotence. And after a bit, not knowing what else to do but scribble on the already scribbled trees, he went back to the house in which his grandfather had died, taking with him his greatness, which was still a secret.

So that in the end there were the trees. The boy walked through them with is head drooping as he increased in stature. Putting out shoots of green thought. So that, in the end, there was no end.

Patrick White, The last few paragraphs of his novel The Tree of Man

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The privacy of the public realm


He has received “a highly coloured post-card .. with its snatches of information on Roman churches, race meetings in England and Ireland, or the train journey from Bergen to Christiania.”

She has received a poem about a glacier.

He asks to read the poem, which he sees as more intimate than a postcard.

‘It’s far too private,’ she told him. ‘I mean,’ she said, ‘you only show your poem to those you want to see it — unless, of course, you throw it wide open to the public.

Patrick White, The Twyborn Affair.  (from here) 

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Sharing the details of one’s life

Closeness to death made the details of personal history seem irrelevant, so she evaded his enquiry, whether sympathetic or inquisitive, while noticing that one of her black gloves had a hole in the index finger, that her skirt was too short for bony knees, and that her shins needed attending to. Her feet she had tucked out of sight.

While she was living in Hendrey Street Ada had come to her as cleaner: a squat, dour woman from the North, which part of it Eadith could never remember, if she had ever known. Unwilling to share the details of her own life, she did not expect others to offer autobiographies, unless it was their vice to expose themselves.

Patrick White, The Twyborn Affair

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How can you know?

“In a deeply felt personal relationship, it is possible to experience emotionally all that one never has, and perhaps never will experience in life. This is the answer to people who say to the novelist: how did you know about something you haven’t experienced yourself?”

Patrick White (from here)

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Where do characters in novels come from?

‘If you read my books, those are all bits of myself. Some of the characters may start as people I’ve known, but they’re all dressed up out of my unconscious. But in general I only choose characters that I think I can understand through something in myself as well as my experience of life and those people of that kind.’ Patrick White

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Faith in words

‘As for Arnold Wyburd, he realized he had lost his faith in words, when his life of usefulness had depended on them: they could be used as fences, smoke-screens, knives and stones; they could take the shape of comforting hot water bottles; but if you ever thought they were about to help you open a door into the truth, you found, instead of a lighted room, a dark void you hadn’t the courage to enter.’

Patrick White: The Eye of The Storm p258

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Clothed in Grief

So their mother appeared to ignore them. Although she wore the rather frowsy dressing gown which bacon fat had spotted, and spilt porridge hardened on, she was clothed essentially in grief. Patrick White The Solid Mandala

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Fear of one’s own child

Mastering a fear of his own child, my father was standing over me, offering a cold, knobbly hand which I took in desperation and love. He was trembling. I could smell his fear. It was that of a man, intensified, and overlaid by those other smells of cigar smoke and port-wine. I guessed that my father must be the only person in the house, otherwise he would not have come in, he would have left me to Nanny, or mummy, even to Emma or Dora. But here he stood in person by the bed, his waistcoat with one of the points crumpled, the watch-chain with its gold symbols, and the miniature greenstone tiki which somebody had brought him back from a holiday at Rotorua, and which I would have loved to fondle had I dared.             Patrick White The Twyborn Affair

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