My rather plain bag (pic below) has taken on a new life (and has become a talking point!) now that it is adorned with modernist jewellery designed by Rachel Sills and available from Zimzalla. (To the Lighthouse, Heart of Darkness, Tender Buttons and Nightwood)
Perhaps due to the importance of poetics to my poetry writing practice, every so often I think about why it is that I write poetry. So here I go with my latest thinkings...
To begin with I have a mistrust of meaning. My preoccupation with sound, with the reception of language as sensual rather than as meaning, comes as a way of placing myself in a safe position away from meaning. Sound is voice, sound is song, sound is pleasant to make and to hear and is company for yourself if there is no-one else around to respond to (it). Meaning is slippery, unpredictable, problematic and can have unpleasant consequences in being taken in unintended ways out of utterances cast quite innocent of any negative intent. And so refuge in sound, making language pleasurable, removing the ogre that is meaning mis-taken is a desirable way of going about inhabiting language.
And yet I would not be able to be speaking to you here if I had no involvement whatsoever with meaning. I am using words to make meaning now in trying to explain my reserve about that very thing! So it is that the world of the poem is the place to be in! Meaning is left outside, in the external world. A poem only has to do with impressions, with perceptions. Nothing is forced upon, nothing told as indisputable, a poem id offered as a world in which all is there to be found, uncovered. Rather than meaning, realisations, through seeing and/or hearing anew, can be experienced when we engage with the world of a poem.
I suppose I am talking about contemporary innovative poetry, the poetry I first encountered while studying at university, a poetry I had not come across before, that opened up the possibilities for language and form beyond anything I had encountered at home, at school, or in popular culture of TV, radio, in bookshops.
So what realisations, other than for language and form, did I experience in my readings of this contemporary innovative poetry? That poetry can be an energy of renewals, anything is possible, nothing is nonsense, any and all are welcome, and that this poetry sparks curiosity and myriad questions about how it works to hypnotise me, to make me think not in a search for meaning, rather to consider things other than I had previously, and even then to realise nothing is fixed, another perception comes in and the poem, our experience of the world, changes again.
And sometimes it has seemed too easy and other times impossible to create this thing, a poem, myself.
And I’m drawn back to it, to the poem as a place I can work out the whys of things, and/or of happenings I experience or am aware of. Again working out the why, coming to an understanding, is not about placing meaning on that happening - my experiences are enough to know it is impossible to pin myself down to a single unchangeable idea about something.
For me poetry seems to put things into perspective, reminding me, via language and form, of the strangeness of being in the world (and this is what I also love in prose fiction). We come to poetry to consider language as functioning outside our everyday encounters with it. We expect to find something in a poem that we perhaps doubt we will get from a face to face verbal encounter. Or is it that in a dialogue with the words on the page we can take and leave them as we wish with no pressure to respond other than how we feel we want to? We don’t have to agree, not with everything we are reading in the poem, but if we do find something that sparks a sensation of kinship, of understanding, we can dwell on that feature.
Much as with song and taking a walk, when we are out of harmony with ourselves we seek the sounds and rhythms of poetry to rebalance us...
I had a wonderful time at the Peter Barlow reading in Manchester last Saturday.
Sarah Hesketh read first - some of her poems were based on her experience in a care home which brought back memories of a care home I worked in a long time ago. It was a treat to hear Alan Baker read, especially his charms and spells (see one of his books in photo below). I read my 10 Charms for Deafness (with Spectacles) along with some new pieces I've been working on - some prayers and a spell.
It was great to perform again with Patricia Farrell, before she closed the afternoon with her own reading. This time we did a cut down version of our Conversational Nuisance piece (available as a zimZalla object!).
Many thanks to the Peter Barlow organisers, Rachel, Tim and Gareth, for inviting me to read and for their hospitality.