A Room with a View

A room with a view

Does the bird know to build a nest in blossoms? I found this on my walk days earlier and it struck me as Virginia Woolf’s, ‘A room of one’s own’, but this isn’t a study; it is actually a boudoir turned bedroom, refurbished to turn into a nursery. Those birds will get creative in there. As an aside, who is to confirm that it takes wealth to scout the best view? I wondered about the title of this poem and wrote one initially, in line with it being ‘A room of one’s own’ and then changed it subsequently into ‘A room with a view’ as I spent unearthly hours before dawn reading Woolf’s classic essay.

If the criticism of Woolf’s essay by Alice Walker [1] is anything to go by, one would imagine that it takes privilege and a safe space to be a writer while she juxtaposed it against the exclusions suffered by women of colour. I find, upon closer scrutiny that Woolf and Walker are on the same page when identifying what it actually takes to be the sort of writer, they imagine a woman writer should be, in chapter four [2] of the book where Woolf quotes

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt, that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

Chapter four, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Blossom 
says the wind
and exclamations of winter gather into
a nesting soliloquy.
The sky drapes a curtain
of night
and I can hear
the murmurs of dreams.
Star spangled banners
are the cape
of nationhood but here,
whispers soar on wings
of moonshine
and sleepy buds will blush at an intoxicating dawn.
A room with a view
is no basis for spring
yet on the seventh day
it rained blossoms,
a wondrous thing.

I enjoyed Woolf’s essay and many of the aspects colour timbre in the contemporary even if some of her illustrations are of literary figures from over 400 years. Her flow of thought is as rambunctious as the confluence of rivers and yet, still, soothing like a placid lake. Needless to say, my early morning view was tinted in metaphor and the poem came out the way it did, for if I were to quote Woolf further, in chapter five, she so eloquently suggests the balance of interrelated yet opposing principles even if she genders them.

…it is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly…And fatal is no figure of speech; for anything written with that conscious bias is doomed to death. It ceases to be fertilized. Brilliant and effective, powerful and masterly, as it may appear for a day or two, it must wither at nightfall; it cannot grow in the minds of others. Some collaboration has to take place in the mind between the woman and the man before the art of creation can be accomplished. Some marriage of opposites has to be consummated. The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness. There must be freedom and there must be peace. Not a wheel must grate, not a light glimmer. The curtains must be close drawn. The writer, I thought, once his experience is over, must lie back and let his mind celebrate its nuptials in darkness. He must not look or question what is being done. Rather, he must pluck the petals from a rose or watch the swans float calmly down the river.

Chapter five, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

I had so much to learn from this essay, not least, the brilliance of a mind unencumbered by the straitjacket of her times, even as much as she paints it into picture and despises it, she does not shy away from naming it. Her peroration was perhaps even more inspiring in that, it will find a place to nest in any human heart that seeks to capture life in writing, despite the prison house of language, despite the schooling of thought, in spite of the ambitious desire for audience and the inordinate thirst for a purposeful relevance.

“When I rummage in my own mind I find no noble sentiments about being companions and equals and influencing the world to higher ends. I find myself saying briefly and prosaically that it is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people, I would say, if I knew how to make it sound exalted. Think of things in themselves”.

Concluding remarks, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Notes:

[1]Alice Walker on Woolf’s Essay ~https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Room_of_One%27s_Own (retrieved on 23/apr/2021)

[2]A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (This essay is based upon two papers read to the Arts Society at Newnharn and the Odtaa at Girton in October 1928. The papers were too long to be read in full, and have since been altered and expanded) ~http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200791h.html (retrieved on 23/apr/2021)

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