Timothy Grayson is a poet, playwright and Cultural Ambassador for Leicester City (Poetry and Creative Writing). He is employed as Project Manager for From Dusk 2 Dawn Magazine (a product of Seed Creativity) and holds two additional posts: Public Lecturer on the Arts (History, Progression and Criticism) at New Walk Museum and Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester.
Timothy is also a regular panellist on BBC Radio Leicester, Chair of the Leicestershire Order of Chivalry, British host of international literary show ‘The Poetry Brothel’ (others in Chicago, Barcelona, New York, Athens, New Orleans & Vietnam) and has been published in literary journals on both sides of the Atlantic.
After a brief foray into live music promotion and rock journalism, Grayson self-funded a modern-day equivalent of what used to be known as The Grand Tour to explore both historical and contemporary Arts first hand and to harness this experience within poetry, essays and journals. This unconventional educational history has given him a diverse, non-elitist attitude which helps him appeal to people from all walks of life; he's performed to strippers, delivered speeches to Cuban revolutionaries, and has received words of commendation and gratitude from members of the British peerage including His Grace the Duke of Marlborough and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Echoes are Riches in the Currency of the Poor
I recall an old Islamic saying that everyone has to die, and that the only real truth is death – and when all is dead, even death will die. I learnt this from the new Lord Mayor as I drank from a crystal glass; the rest of the city droned like distant bees through the parlour windows and, at the time, Leicester appeared to be far, far beneath us.
I pushed out of his panelled parlour onto the red carpet decorated with white roses, down the stairs and out onto Town Hall Square. I saw Leicester, the white rose from that ancient crest, but in the sunlight she looked closer to ivory, which was far more inviting than virtuous (as that carpet would have had me believe). Here was not a city of perfection or a utopia with dream-like countenance; here was Leicester, a real city: perfectly ripe and beautifully rotten.
An elderly person with holes in his shoes walked up to me as I stood in that doorway. He didn’t beg, just looked at me, standing there in my tailored suit, as if out of pity. He beckoned me to his level.
“You still have no idea what it is to live” he told me, as if confessing my own sin. I reached into my pocket, but I had no change. Not that he noticed.
“To live”, he continued, “is not to accept your lot in life. To truly live, is to make your mark on the world, to not be afraid to scream your name into the abyss, never truly knowing if it will ever echo back to you, and to have the courage to keep on screaming, shouting, roaring, until one day, you hear it repeated, and when you do hear it repeated, you scream back, you scream back with all your heart and soul to meet it until you can’t scream any longer, and when your throat is raw and you’re collapsed on the floor there is a chance (albeit a small one) that you will no longer hear the silent abyss, but a torrent of echoes, roaring back at you.”
This old man may have not had all the money in the world, but he had an air of authority and I no longer recall why, but I felt as if I could trust him. I found myself telling him of my failures, fears, hopes and ambitions. I told him of the Lord Mayor’s comment that all will die, and that of course I wanted to make my mark, but that I was afraid of the abyss.
“What if”, I asked him, “for all my screaming, I heard nothing in return?”
“That is not the question you should be asking” said the old man. “The question you should be asking yourself is what if you never dared to scream?”
He pushed me gently to walk past. I must have been staring at the ground for quite a while, because when I looked back, he was on the other side of the fountain. I called to catch his attention, but it was clear he couldn’t hear me, so I called again – this time a little louder. I was sure he must have heard me that time, but he didn’t respond. Now, long after he disappeared around the corner of that dazzling square, I finally understand: he must have felt as if he had to keep walking, for me. And one day, when all is dead but shades and echoes, I’ll remember to thank him.
As with most of my prose pieces to date, this is semi-autobiographical. It came about after a real conversation with the new Lord Mayor of Leicester, who was a very pleasant, intelligent gentleman but it struck me how hard it must be to resist the status, pomp and grandeur of such an office. He joked about me lecturing at the University of Leicester without a formal qualification and the idea that I was qualified through experience alone. I felt inadequate, yet later remembered the Lord Byron quote ‘I will cut myself a path through the world or perish in the attempt’. It made me realise I should be proud about what I’ve achieved so far, especially since I know how hard I’ve had to ‘cut’ to get to where I am without a formal educational history. I decided to juxtapose the Lord Mayor’s Islamic philosophy with Byron’s proactive, but ultimately similar, message in this piece. In the wealthy Lord Mayor’s opinion, there is no hope, for all will die. But from Byron and my poor pensioner’s perspective, there is still death, but it’s having the courage to ‘cut a path through the world’ without over valuing mortality or monetary wealth that creates new legacies. Such legacies live on.