"Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure .."
Not just 'learning' but the very recognisable ache of 'trying to learn' - a lesson in humility. So, not an even gradient of progress - failure even! As I struggle to write, I take courage from these words of T.S.Eliot from 'East Coker', the second of the Four Quartets.
Later, in this same section, unsurprisingly (this being written 1939-1940), he employs an extended military metaphor to express the repeated struggle of putting thoughts into words:
"And so each new venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion."
75 years on, I get a sense of this poetry transcending the limitations of mortality. Maybe each generation's 'end' or purpose is to try to render its witness in writing.
"There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again."
The repeated trying can be a trial.
However, as Anne Stevenson observes (about 25 minutes in to this You Tube video), T.S.Eliot's modernist use of quotation and pastiche, the Quartet's different voices/instruments, is a liberating model for all writers. Listening and reading become vital parts of the process, as well as tapping keys or scribbling.
(Click this link for an exercise in refreshing one's own writing with the writing of others.)
NWP outreach director