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Writers who have influenced me

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The writers who excited me when I was in my early 20s were Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, the Gawain poet, Strindberg, and Shakespeare.  I became a Lawrence disciple at university, citing his writings in practically every serious conversation, to such an extent that I became an irritation and a bore to my friends.  Lawrence's profound belief in the imagination and his sense of the sheer wonder of being alive, was sustained throughout his writing.  Reading Lawrence was like being given pulse, heartbeat and life, especially after the nihilistic moods of The Wasteland and post-First World war literature dealing with the nightmare of industrial and mechanized killing.  Lawrence taught me how to appreciate Hardy – his characters 'bursting suddenly out of bud and taking a wild flight into flower . . . people each with a real, vital potential self . . . and this self suddenly bursts the shell of manner and convention and commonplace opinion.'  (Study of Thomas Hardy).  Lawrence didn't like Strindberg, describing him as 'unnatural, forced, a bit indecent, a bit skin – erupty' but I was captured by Strindberg's dream plays, his radical formal experiments, his actual attempts at alchemy, his sexual passion and disgust, the violence he did to himself, and above all his final cry for transfiguration.  As to the Gawain poet, he gave me a sense of the sacred wrestling with the profane, love for the virgin Mary and lust for actual women, and life being an agonizing quest for both within the realms of the mundane and the magical.  Shakespeare was constantly present, a permanent hum in the air.  He was a given, a certainty: it was a certainty that I could never write with his genius, so the next best thing was to try to achieve a few startling and original images and hope to claim a place even at the furthest edge of the great light he cast on literature.


 In my late 20s I discovered West Indian writing – Olive Senior, Wilson Harris, Sam Selvon, Derek Walcott, Jean Rhys, V.S Naipaul, Kamau Brathwaite, Earl Lovelace, and the rest.  They too were vastly talented and radically imaginative 'outsiders' and I came to value the strengths of being in a 'minority', partly British, partly something else.  Trauma plus travel plus partial status equals the possibility of art.

 

© David Dabydeen

 

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