In praise of nothing


Li Yuan-chia, ‘Monochrome White Painting’ 1963


I  wish you every happiness for the new year.

On the last day of the year I attempted a deathless piece about 2016. But in trying to write it, I kept descending into pompous windbaggery. My conclusion was that kindness is good, and that treating people with common decency is a rebellious act. And blah, blah, blah-blah… I spare you the long version.

Sometimes saying nothing is okay, isn’t it?  Preferable when what you have to say is barely worth saying. Often I read things in social media, and blogs like this, and I literally would rather have read nothing. It happens with poems sometimes too. It’s quite a good test.

I discovered through the power of google that someone called Sheridan Simove has made lots of money from selling a book with blank pages called What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex. I might think this is a pretty weak joke, but I expect Simove laughed all the way to the bank thanks to nothing.

Is laughing at nothing, the same as highbrow art that frames nothing? Such as John Cage’s 4’33”or the Chinese born UK painter and poet Li Yuan-chia’s 1963 painting above. I know people who have found John Cage’s piece to be hilarious.

One reason I am still under the spell of Samuel Beckett is that his work is full of people in various kinds of limbo doing nothing. In Waiting for Godot or sitting in dustbins like in Endgame or just mouthing into the void in Not I. As Beckett said, in possibly my favourite quote of all time (from Malone Dies), “Nothing is more real than nothing”.

*   *   *

I really liked Robin Houghton’s recent blog post discussing Facebook. She is going on a Facebook detox for at least a month, and gives good reasons.

For my part, when a social media platform becomes an intermediary, with algorithms I don’t understand, it may be time to reassess. Robin talks about having more face time and actual connections with her friends, and I couldn’t agree more.

*   *   *

Curmudgeon that I am, I find January bleak. So imagine my surprise when on January 1st the pleasingly austere postmodern site E·ratio  went live and included one of my, ah-hem, postmodern poems  An explication of three Light Age texts. Also on January 1st I heard from J.K. Shawhan, the editor of another interesting US site called The Basil O’Flaherty  who kindly took four poems to be uploaded in March.

All very weird. Could 2017 turn out fine after all? I hope so.


About Peter Kenny

I lead a double life. Identity #1. A writer of poems, comedy plays, dark fiction and the odd libretto. Identity #2: A marketing outlier, working with London creative agencies and my own clients as a copywriter and creative consultant.
This entry was posted in a writer's life, Blowing my own trumpet, Poetry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to In praise of nothing

  1. Ryan Dowling says:

    “Pompous windbaggery”(haha!). But I agree with you insofar as anyone can be a prolific writer nowadays due to all the media for self-publication. What happened to the guys who spent years, decades, entire lifetimes creating one text? A little silence and gestation might go a long way I think.

    • Peter Kenny says:

      Thanks for stopping by and happy new year Ryan. Yes, I think I’m after a quiet, chrysalis stage of reinvention personally. Social media has a necessity for constant updates. If you’re not there, you don’t exist, so it obliges everyone to say something, even when they have nothing to say.

      I cringe when I realise I’m just being attention-seeking. And I love reading things that aren’t just a textual selfie. Ideally I’d like to let the work do the talking. I totally agree Ryan that creating a single wonderful text, for example, is a fine testament to a writer’s life. Still working on that one! 🙂

  2. Hilaire says:

    I’m a big fan of Beckett and love that quote too! Congratulations on your new year successes!

    • Peter Kenny says:

      Thanks Hilaire. Happy new year to you, and I wish you the best for your writing this year — and in everything else too. I was trumpeting my small successes, probably not something I’d normally do but I was so astonished by January 1st I had to blurt it out!

      And gosh Beckett. A fellow fan? Excellent. He’s a big hero. The plays more than the prose, though.

  3. I love that you have a category ‘Blowing my own trumpet’ – I can think of a blog or two where every post would be in that category – no names mentioned – tee hee. Well done on the acceptances mate, a great way to start the year and gawd knows we need stuff to brighten up January.

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