William Soutar Explains It All.

posted in: Art, Word Nerd, Work 5
Soutar. Image: Screenshot from BBC4 documentary.
Soutar. Image: Screenshot from BBC4 documentary.


Tonight, some words that give me great joy.

William Soutar is one of my favorite poets. I love him so much I wrote a poem about him once. (It’s not good enough to share, yet; maybe someday.) Soutar, who was born in Scotland in 1898, suffered from ankylosing spondylitis, a crippling form of chronic, inflammatory arthritis, and was bedridden for well over a decade as a result. But by all accounts — even in his sickbed he seemed to know everyone who was anyone in those days so there are many accounts  — he was beguiling, charming, warm, and obviously an insanely gifted writer.

When Soutar was diagnosed, he didn’t freak out. When he realized that he would no longer be able to play football, or garden, or travel much at all, he said to himself, “Now I can be a poet.”

Who does that?

I also love Soutar because he was a dedicated journal keeper. Me too, Billy; me too. And leafing through a journal from 2013 the other day — I was looking for a picture that I still haven’t found — I came across a passage from Soutar’s journal that I had copied into mine. It’s about why a person should keep a journal.

Or a blog.

“If you ask me why I deem it worthwhile to fill up a page such as this, day by day — shall I not reply, ‘Worthwhileness hasn’t very much to do with it’? The most natural reply might be, ‘Because I cannot go out and chop a basket of firewood or take the weeds out of the garden path.’ 

Yet that wouldn’t be a wholly honest answer. We are all sustained at times by the thought that whatever we may be we are certainly a solitary manifestation of creation; not a single other creature in all the history of the world has been just as ourself — not another will be like us. 

Why not put on record something of the world as seen by this lonely ‘ego’: here and there perhaps a sentence may be born whose father is reality.”

Thanks, William. It’s good to know you think about this stuff, too.

5 Responses

  1. Jean
    | Reply

    You are a joy to read first thing in the morning! Keep up the good work in words and in quilts!

  2. Mary
    | Reply


  3. J M
    | Reply

    I’ve got arthritis – not like this – but the thing about arthritis is you know it could always be worse. So, I walk alot. I’ve also got gout – and gout – well – it’s PURE pain. When it hits there’s no sleep, it hurts to raise or lower your foot and by hurt I mean a massive megadeath increase in PURE pain. but there is one great thing about a gout flare – it’s a flare – and you know it won’t last forever and a flare can only scream F YOU! for so long and if you’re lucky like I tend to be – then you don’t get hit by it too often. But the thing is – well – when you get right down to it – people just don’t buy into the fact that a Big Toe can hurt that much. That one little joint can wreck a man for a few days. By wreck I mean the weight of a bed sheet feels like a red hot poker stabbed through your toe into the bone to stir up the marrow. But it’s just uric acid, little shards of crystal glass stuck in your bones. So, anyhow, there’s no work, there’s no hello, no goodbye, no in-betweens, there’s no nothing but the pain. But here’s the great part again – you know in a matter of two-three days it will all start to roll out like a tide and life will get back to normal. It’s a debilitating little horror but it gets better. At least for me it does, because I’m lucky. Very lucky. And because of my luck, I’m about to get up off my couch, get dressed and go for a walk. I think maybe Soutar knew it could get worse because it can get worse and always does and even then there’s somebody else out there sure to make your life look like a picnic and that’s pretty much my life so far. I’m not Soutar and Soutar wasn’t a major burn victim in a burn ward. Anyhow, Fons – you of the Big Mellow – I shut up now. I’ve already commented two days in a row, so, I’ll leave you alone for a few days. Anyhow, take care. sorry for the rant and thanks for letting an old, fat man ramble. .

    • Deb Kimball
      | Reply

      I too am arthritic. I ache all the time. I only “hurt” sometimes. There is no fix. There is no product on the market that relieves. I too get up and take a walk. A struggle from one day to the next, but I get up. I too rant. But I love the release of words leaving my mouth. I breathe better. When I breathe, I don’t hurt as much.

      That’s why I sew and create. I delve into my project, brain totally engaged, and I feel almost zen-like. When my back wears out, I only have “one more to do”. When my hands don’t work, I kewpie clipping and pinning and pushing. It’s the life I have. I am grateful for it. I celebrate each and every one. Any other option is not appealing. JM, you inspire me.

  4. Ann Bailey
    | Reply

    Wow…such inspiration from Mary, Soutar, JM and Deb….thank you…you all have debilitating disease but are so intelligent and inspiring….God Bless you all….

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