Monday, 12 November 2012

The Great Lost Blog Entry

It's November. Haven't updated the blog since September and we've gone from summer to autumn without so much as a squeak. Right now I'm really busy so I thought this was a perfect time to ignore my tasks and displace my energies into the blog. Back in September I wrote the following post and for whatever reason forgot to post it. Well here it is:

Does A Poem Have to Know Where It’s Going?

One of the phrases I hear a lot at readings is ‘I don’t know what this poem is about’ or ‘I’m not sure why I wrote it.’ There is probably no point ever writing a poem maybe, but perhaps what the speaker intends to say is that the poem came out of nowhere. Whenever I wonder where poems come from, I imagine a big black forest somewhere, with poems climbing trees and digging holes like animals. I would argue that many contemporary poems try and imitate the dream, whereas older, traditional ones, many of which were and still are studied at school are the ones which are more immediate on the whole. They explain themselves, there’s more rhetoric, they make statements. I suppose in terms of new poems we’re talking Imagiste onwards, which can be dated around 1912, (Bob Richardson taught me everything about the Imagistes at the last Leicester Shindig, there were even visual aids involved). Virginia Woolf would say the First World War changed everything, poems stopped making sense because for many people the world did. It became gradually harder for poets to use such emotive, abstract sentiments after the Somme and Paschendale. Woolf famously uses this example in 'A Room of One’s Own' to illustrate the kind of poetry which she says would never be written after 1918:

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;

However, I would say that for most people who don’t write poetry this would be their idea of a poem: lyric, beauty, sentiment. It’s these new-fangled poets who don’t write like this. ‘All those similies; all that juicy fruit and halcyon sea, eeesh’ says contemporary poet. This poem knows where it’s going, people on the whole (let’s argue this one if you like) don’t write like this anymore.

‘Ok’, says the poet, ‘poems have to make sense in terms of dream logic, off to my notebook I go.’ My own view is that all poetry from different time periods and cultures must be enjoyed. For this experiment, however, the poet wants to be contemporary. To test this I have opened a copy of the latest Rialto – the closest thing next to me at the desk – randomly. Below are the opening lines to a poem, ‘The Last’ by Robin Houghton:

They’ve been coming since posters were invented:
sometimes in dreams, to the tipping of cowboy hats

Ok, so who are they, they sound a bit ominous, not friendly, there are cowboy hats involved, what if they have guns? Later on the poet describes: ‘And still they would come, insistent. / They left my body as they found it…’ To me that’s chilling, but I’m still none the wiser as to who they are but they are interesting. On closer reading maybe they’re not so bad, I’m thinking about them as heroic figures perhaps. The poem mentions ‘they’ are dressed in Liverpool shirts and the person in the poem wrote about them in ‘diaries’. Maybe they’re people he/she wanted to be or dreamt of being when young? If he/she had known when the ‘last’ of them had arrived they would have ‘thrown a party.’ Sounds sad, or a tribute to something lost.

Having thought about the poem I’m reading it again and enjoying it and unpeeling it with interest. I plucked that poem from the air of course. One poem isn’t enough perhaps, but this is a blog post not the Royal Institute Christmas Lectures. You never know where you are going, you just go with the poet. You have to trust.

No comments:

Post a Comment