St Valentine & Nudity
I’ve never been much in favour of celebrating Valentine’s Day. With its superfluity of hearts and red roses it always came across as a schmalzy, hyped-up, over-romanticised American import – a total commercial rip-off. Who was St Valentine anyway and what did he have to do with love?
It turns out that Pope Gelasius in 496 AD proclaimed February 14 to be the feast day in honour of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd century to take the place of a Roman fertility festival known as Lupercalia. No wonder the Church, true to its time-honoured party-pooping, wanted to plaster over a celebration where people ran naked in the streets, laughed a lot and hit each other with leather thongs. Very Monty Python!
The St. Valentine whom the modern Valentine’s Day honors was a Roman priest and a martyr, a far more acceptable role-model as far as the Church was concerned. The Catholic Church has always been overzealous in discouraging anything to do with nudity or fun, attempting to turn sensuality or eroticism into something pure and spiritual. (See my essay Yahweh and Eros, ‘Meanjin’, January 2007 under ‘Recently Published’.)
But today does feel like an appropriate date to launch my new updated website which represents another stage in my writing career, when I continue to try to understand what it means to be a professional writer. Writing is surely about telling stories and sometimes involves uncovering the areas that people in power want covered over and hidden. The best of investigative journalism has always attempted to reveal corruption and hypocrisy in high places –even in religious institutions.
Writing for me is about telling parts of my own stories whether in novels or short stories. It’s about bringing to light the stories of others too, especially of people who lack opportunity or influence. It’s about entering into discussion with other writers, exploring ideas, trying to make sense of what often feels like a dysfunctional world. It’s about exploring styles of writing and investigating the links with other forms of media and technology. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the changes but it’s always exhilarating.
I hope this ‘tres professionelle molto glam’ website (according to a friend’s description) will be an opportunity to relate to writers and readers everywhere.
As long as you don’t forget from time to time to do a bit of running through the streets naked, laughing and hitting each other with leather thongs too.
I’m hanging out soon to celebrate World Poetry day with six poets from the Geelong region featured in ‘Best Australian Poems 2011’: