Where to start.
Maybe with an ending.
My first collection, Scarecrow, went out into the world and then there was a space. I had nothing to say, or felt that way. I had used too many words.
Maybe with a beginning.
I am listening to Charles Ives’s Holidays Symphony. Between strings and brass, wind, the Jew’s harp. Or jaw harp, mouth harp, gewgaw, guimbard, khomus, trump, Ozark harp, Galician harp, or murchunga. A lamellophone instrument (the internet tells me). And my second collection is pretty much done.
How did it get from there to here? Scarecrow was a personal thing, full of real thoughts buried into personas (sometimes). It was a bit folky, gothic, baroque. There was the sun and the rain, and the railways that took you from the city to the sea. Fields.
And then what?
Then there were just words, and wondering which words were mine. The sense that I hadn’t started to tackle the foremost question, that of language itself. My language felt borrowed. But we do borrow all our language, don’t we? And so there are implications.
Scarecrow also concerned time and distance. Fair enough. But I began to feel it didn’t really get in amongst them. A fleeting vision is a thing, a fact, but it also means something. Every word is a disturbance. To paint a picture is not to paint the thing you see. It’s more to do with how you see. Etc.
All of the land, poets pacing purposefully, making notes and listening carefully to what others say. Which others? Then writing everything up. A methodical pursuit. Understandable in this information age, to want to curate, to pinpoint, to cut through the noise, to (literally) find a path through the mud and come to rest, focus, on something solid. The desire for certainty.
(As we discussed earlier today: the unnerving need for the Bake Off, the Victoria sponge).
The meadow. The blizzard of moths gone. The river. The ancient woodland. The word plain and simple. Everything easily understood.
In times of inundation it (no doubt) feels apt to plot and map, to stake a claim, to say… at least this, this, this. We are good people, honestly, and despite our behaviours feel very connected to trees, especially at this time of climate crisis. I walked eight miles at the weekend, here is the route.
But what of Ives’s (again) Fourth Symphony and its ‘collapse section’? What of ‘Daffy Duck in Hollywood’? What of Warhol’s repeated bottles of Coke? Ah, what even of my old song Gordon ‘Dodger’ Pattinson with its middle eight of white noise (a detuned radio)?
What say you, leaf? Wem sagst du das!
And so I wanted to bear witness to uncertainty and ambiguity, to the augmentations, transpositions, diminutions, inversions. I wanted words that didn’t claim what wasn’t theirs to claim. I wanted something almost involuntary. Found words, words from differing lexicons/vocabularies. Heteroglossia. Dialogisms. The whole multieffingfariousness of it all.
What was the encounter? Who met with what? What can you tell of it, truly? What were the voices you heard? In which voice will you speak next? What names do you trust? How can you know? What are you proposing? Is the proposal a good one? Are you sure?
These questions, the faltering fruits of an enquiry.
And this is what I set out to write.