All entries for April 2006

April 29, 2006

Apt Quote

Pressures, as of deadlines or critical demand, also serve artists of every kind to release the adrenalin which acts with "inspired" precision. These are usually classified as "improvisations." ~ Maya Deren, Some Metaphors For The Creative Process

April 25, 2006


I realise that a lot of people comment on my creative work nowadays but I seldom return the favor. I've been quite anxious about this whole Writing at Warwick game recently, and quite disillusioned with poetry per se, and I guess that is why. Anyway, if you're a Practice of Poetry student reading this, I can (if you want) read over your stuff in person before the deadline. Take it easy!

Night Clearing

I'm back at home now. You've heard a bit about it –
I'm with two good friends, examining the light.
It's late but light diffuses from the clouds
filling up the empty field below and beyond us –
and further out, Basingstoke shimmering under smog.
No camera would record the light, at least not as we see it:
the blank air, the blossom petals, the closeness.

Moments like these exist – and you know as much, you said so –
in a brief, frail instant, before dying
on the wave. We cannot save them. We can only
recognise their life and mourn their passing.

You absence, though, is so particular
that it frees up the sky and lets me spin there,
rapt in intellect, in my own solitude.
The stars fold themselves into petals the colour of skin
with all the symmetry of your personality;
the balance of mystery and familiarity;
the phrases that your movements suggest.

I hope to walk with you like this when we meet again
and in the shrinking light, to offer you these moments of feeling,
boldly plucking the words like the loose heads of flowers.

But I'm reduced to imprecision, to things that will fit in an envelope.
I want you like these shimmering lights, cloudless, clear and close.

April 23, 2006

A thought

Taking Practice of Poetry may well have been counterproductive. My overall poetry output has decreased this year, and I think this is because: what used to be a matter of something autonomous and pleasurable has come under the logic of deadlines and aesthetic conformity. Writing poetry no longer seems worthwhile for itself. Of course this would all be different if I treated poetry as a discipline of rigour and effort. Perhaps one day I will. But right now, the best and most fulfilling activities, to me, are the ones that don't need double spacing and a cover sheet.

April 06, 2006

Notes towards "Practice of Poetry" commentary

Notes towards a poetry commentary…

working towards an aesthetic that revels in the beauty of language – both in sound and meaning – rather than priveleging one over the other. An aesthetic similar to that expressed by WCW: “a lightness and a light full of / words upon a paper sky, each a meaning / and all a meaning jointly.” NOT, therefore, to callously abandon meaning like the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, nor to pretend to write “plainly” or in any sort of common language like for instance (imho) Larkin does.

There is a basic aesthetic at work when we appreciate music. Alan Watts points out that music and dance are the two truly pointless art forms. The aim of the dance is not to get somewhere, but to enjoy and revel in movement; similarly with music, musical forms and patterns are appreciated for their own beauty, not because they stand for anything. This is what we mean when we approve of a poem as being musical. We usually think that musicality can be applied only to the sound of the poem, but why not the meaning too?

I'm unsure what musical meaning would entail. Something indeterminate, that's for sure. Combining different textures into a pleasing whole. The orchestration of different – even contradictory – meanings. Those poems that are saturated in beautiful ambiguity tend to have a similar effect on me to great jazz music – an trancelike absorption in the work (involoving, with poetry, close rereading), a sense of freedom and openness. So I advocate blending meanings as harmonies are blent in music.

To blend meaning is not to devalue meaning itself, to abandon Truth as an possible goal of poetry. On the one hand, we have what comonly passes for political poetry: a dull drone. On the other hand, we have postmodern or poststructural abandonments of meaning: discordant honking. But I like harmony :))

Unversal voice vs dialects

There is an opposition between Yeatsian universality: “I hated and still hate with an every drowing hatred the literature of the point of view. I wanted…to get back to Homer…I wanted to cry and all men cried, to laugh as all men laughed…

and the idea of a poetry of dialect (which poet in Strong Words talks about this?)

The debate over the value of confessional / personal poety is related but not the same. We are thinking more about the use of language here, and the problems of poetry as communication.

We think in dialects – words and categories that we have learnt from our cultures and social circles. But we are not absolutely conditioned by culture – every good poet can project some of their unique pattern through their modification of their received dialect. This is how and why dialects multiply. In such a fiercely individualistic world as our own, one could argue that this process is destablising language and inhibiting any chance of communication between individuals.

But no: the creation of a unique personal dialect (which writer was it who coined this idea?) is necessary to writing poetry. To write in this dialect is to share a sense of yourself, even if your poetry is not at all confessional. It is also to share your culture, to make it inhabitable by others. [Example of Linton Kwesi Johnson.]

Poetry written in a particular regional/cultural dialect – e.g. LKJ, Tom Leonard – is not challenging because you can't understand it, but because you can :D

I am not lionising the use of particular dialects like in these examples. This is only one of many ways in which unique dialect can be expressed. Much good poetry that appears to be standard English (or the Queen's english, or middle english…) in fact expresses dialect through idiomatic turns of phrase, use of sound or other poetic technique, or the use of colloquailisms and various registers of language.

This flexible expression of culture and self is what I really admire in language, and constitues the aesthetic beauty of langage.

Other Topics to cover:
My “cultural background”
Why Yeats May Have Been Right
Romantic Idealisation
Theories of Inspiration
Language as organic entity or process…

April 05, 2006

Calling Erato

No more putting it off. I'm cold and hungry
and my voice will sound like porridge, lumps and all.
Still, you deserve some expression of how I am,
a notebook scribble to find when you are bored.

Back then, you were closer than my retinas,
the dark of my eyelids.
I would go to bed kissing you and wake up alone.
Oh! morning kisses – half awake, nuzzling into dryness!

Of course, you're the sort who knows but doesn't mention.
You're the sort who – closer to me than myself – is just there.
Capricious spirit, you deserved every moment I gave you –
every drop of attention, every tear.

Do you remember being by the lake that time,
when lateness and love were pressing on my mind?
To you I was alone, though our friends were there.
You threw your dusky blanket into the air.

You whispered uneven songs into my ear.
I wore your big wooly jumper, bobbled with stars,
breathing moonlight as if it were just a gas.
I realised then that you never loved me,

and that I loved another of my friends.
My cold feet kissed the grass. And when you left,
I wrote it all out in a stretch of dry coherence.
My best work yet. It's not for you. I breathe.

This anniversary is hard. It's the little details:
like finding your words there in my handwriting,
or your crumpled jumper in the corner of the evening.
I don't want to ask for emotional favours,

but we should meet again, soon. Coffee is fine.
I'll wait at dusk in the garden. Take your time.

April 2006

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