In a deep and unknown part of Wales (not the Wales you can see, but the Wales behind that) I wrote an essay that became a story that became a poem that became a PhD dissertation. The essay won a Pushcart Prize for nonfiction, the story won a first place award for fiction - and on the dissertation was conferred the distinction of “Accepted as Submitted: No Changes” for what I was told was the fifth time in the University’s almost 200 year history. The poem is unpublished.
I say these things easily and without conceit because I insist that I did not write them – they were written by the single and singular voice of a reclusive, enigmatic, otherworldly Welsh tenor. They were born of music.
“Once each millennium, perhaps, a voice like this is born. Once in a thousand years the gods descend to bless the tender throat of a newborn babe. But, in Timothy, that is where it stayed—deep in the throat of a protracted infancy, surrendered to a secret twenty years before.” - “The Postmaster’s Song” (http://bit.ly/pxwmgD )
A long time ago in Los Angeles, I stopped writing because of a personal trauma. Despite a recently concluded and very successful book tour, despite massive effort on my part (and others) nothing was able to change that. I did not write my own creative work for years. I continued my professional writing career easily, but my artistic life seemed over. I decided then, to fulfil another and long neglected goal – to study for a PhD and to take up an offer to teach writing and literature at a university in Wales.
I had no inkling of what would happen.
When I stepped over the threshold between Wales and everywhere else, I found an immensely powerful, intensely committed silence. Everyone (Every Welsh-born, Welsh-speaking person) seemed to be listening to something that I could not hear. As time passed, I began to hear a faint echo of a compelling music – but only for a moment, and then it would disappear.
Until I met Timothy. Timothy Evans was the local postmaster in that university town and the steward of a voice from another world ( http://bit.ly/JXLYGl ). Timothy’s task in life was to sing out that silent music – mine, as it would turn out, was to write it.
What happened as a result of that meeting was an explosive, transformative journey into the conjunction of music and writing – a liminal place, where, in the short time I was there, I produced all the work recounted above and an additional book, Felicity & Barbara Pym (http://felicityandbarbarapym.wordpress.com ). This is all detailed, metaphorically but accurately, in “The Postmaster’s Song” and recounted, cryptically but factually, in “Bendithion”, The Pushcart essay. The journey is ongoing but its inception both took my breath away and breathed new life into a dormant art/ist.
An interviewer once asked me to describe my writing process. I replied: “I don’t know. I don’t look at it, don’t pay attention to it. I can tell you what initiates it, though. Arrested experience. When suddenly, something just stops you in your tracks and you forget to breathe for a moment. That’s when I write about something. Whatever this "something" is, it is beauteous, metamorphic and addictive.”
When she wasn’t near, his song came though the thick stone of the Post Office across the road through the porous walls of the Canterbury building at the University where she worked and into the cells of her heart, with sirenic, relentless beauty. Sometimes in the early dusk she would look up from her desk and out the window to see light streaming from the windows of the Post Office, like golden fingers across the foggy road. And even the light had sound. (“The Postmaster’s Song”)
The music of Wales is addictive – it changes something within. And because this silent music is what Timothy makes audibly manifest, so is his singing. So much so (and I know this is hard to believe, but it is true) that the Head of our English Department forbade the faculty from listening to Timothy's voice while marking exams and essays - because nothing seems important when you are inside this voice - one's heart expands to meet it and all the essays get splendid, compassionate, bountiful marks. It happened to this professor a few years ago and since then "No Timothy during Marking" has been the department rule.
The very reason for his magnetic effect on people is that he is not offering an I-Thou personal relationship to his listeners—he is offering transport to another world. He is the key to a secret garden, a rabbit hole, a yellow brick road, a starship, the door in the wardrobe, the back of the North Wind. An audible alchemist. A Gabriel at the gates. He isn’t singing to you or to me. He’s singing for us—on behalf of us, because we can’t sing ourselves into a wonderland on our own. (“Bendithion” http://bit.ly/L7ELlJ )
This encounter with Wales as personified by Timothy both engendered and transfigured my work. What I write about has changed. How I write has changed. My work has the force of that silent music behind it - the same silent music that makes Timothy sing and others write poetry or paint or... One form of art has infused another.
The lessons learned from this experience are disparate and manifold, but above all is this one: Write what you hear in the silence around you. Don’t write about it.
“My work therefore, is paraspherical. It both incorporates and extends beyond the traditional imperatives of single sphere or single-genre material in an effort to narrow the chasm between art and experience so that those who can, may leap from one world to another. There is a difference between describing a song and singing it. This is the singing.” (The Bendithion Chronicles [PhD Dissertation], p. 18)
 The fictional story is reportage, the essay is lyrical, the poem is a secret and the dissertation, nobody has been able to describe, all reflecting their origin.
 There is an excellent article written by Ken Keegan, the editor of Omnidawn magazine, about the nature and value of paraspherical literature, ‘Why Fabulist and New Wave Fabulist Stories in an Anthology Named PARASPHERES?’ archived at: http://www.omnidawn.com/paraspheres/#why
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance