October 27, 2005

Thoughts on The Secret

This collection emerges from silence and the secrets that such quietude entails. It is also a journey in marginal poetics. Although, initial poems act as a mirror and shine a light on the exigencies of my own culture, my own country that is Wales, I remember Julia Kristeva's description of her ironist in Strangers to Ourselves . The ironist who 'welcomes the foreigner without tying him down, opening the host to his visitor without committing him' is my ideal of the poet. For marginal writers, new nefarious strategies dictate a kind of exile (in my case an exile from Welsh culture). As Kristeva states, 'How can one avoid sinking into the mire of common sense, if not by becoming a stranger to one's own country, language, sex, and identity?' In The Secret, I have tried to explore my feelings about my own country through my estrangement. The example of the city of Baucis in Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities is useful here; the residents of Baucis marginalise themselves allowing no part of the city to touch the earth's surface. Calvino describes the people who ' with their spyglasses and telescopes aimed downward [...] never tire of examining it, tirelessly observing it, leaf by leaf, stone by stone, ant by ant, contemplating with fascination their own absence'.

Marginal poets are sometimes embedded in the culture, mythologies, landscapes of their own cultures or countries, but this does not have to be the case. Thus in Menna Elfyn's poem, 'Broadway Morning', the protagonist hears a ' "bore da" of welcome / from the mouth of an Iraqi'. Elfyn humanises this inhabitant of the 'axis of evil' by allowing him to be a visible subject and by admitting his privileged knowledge of Welsh, another minority culture and language. Like Elfyn, I have stepped towards another culture, another way of life to explore the silence of oppressed or minority cultures. Being silent is not necessarily passive, but can be a performative act – a way of discovering selfhood, of discovering empathy, of making comparisons.

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