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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Okay so first, it’s Autumn. The weather sad but the day happier.
Second, there’s the Guardian on the coffee table because I’ve
Become a Guardian reader. People can change. That’s the
Nature of life, it comes and goes, in swishes and swashes.
Okay, so now it’s the next day. It’s not much different to other
Days. Nothing to report. I’ve noticed the strength of the basil
Plant in the kitchen trying its best to feed us. It’s doing well,
For Autumn. Today was eventless but I was open to everything.
For example, the basil thing, and now the funny attack to my lungs
When I remembered your absence today. And my ambition, I’ve
Noticed that too, to give my happiness wholly to you, but I can’t,
So I’ve rearranged the bedroom. Funny isn’t it, all these reminders
Of being alive in this world today, in an exciting, troubling age,
These are the things I’d want you to know, things I’d chat to you
About, but can’t – and look, look here, there’s a squirrel run over in
The road, there’s a pink falling into an unescapable blue, and that
Happens literally every single night, would you believe it?

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Here is another one of my poems that I wrote last night, again, I don’t think I’ll use it for anything. This is something I’d be likely to submit to one of those lit mags I’m a little bit afraid of, lit mags that I’d feel ashamed sending any flarf-based poetry to. I find that it’s helpful to sometimes understand that one can be – and should be – slightly versatile when it comes to poetry. Not that one should be a jack of all trades and a master of none (which is my biggest worry about myself as a creative person. And my second worry is that I just used the sentence “which is my biggest worry about myself as a creative person”). Here it is, it’s called How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found Again. It’s about denial and the inability to accept the idea of a supernatural giving rise to the idea of trying to make the practical natural something it is not.

not even gathered to god but made cargo of yourself
years can strip themselves bare, distances made wider
gateposts are marked by 1 of 198 emails, between us
the phone calls i timed; and a body disappears
though no-one sees it disappear and so we practice to
praise nothing, in search of nothing. with words we tried
to spell the world that lived slightly below you, engrave it
in our hipbones so our pelvises give way. the deep heft
of your sleeping body leaves an eerie space behind
and necessary apparatus; so many times you’d ask I
mouth-to-mouth revive you, pay for each and every
breath you gulp directly from my lungs but i loved you
far too much to risk you an inadvertent possession; maybe
inhabit too much of what we kidded ourselves was your
soul. but now we all agree we let you down. like our united
selves had run out of batteries and so you made us
really pay. Forgive me for thinking that there was method
in this. It makes sense that I am mad today, because the
gateposts now point backwards; or they fell, or sank, or
were knocked over, whatever, they’re not the same now.
Your best efforts might have worked and it helps to think
that you simply rejected us; grew tired of all our little
problems, still somewhere really plucking the life, hard-
wired to someone else now who will let you gasp from
his or her mouth, with both lungs, as your exalted face, as
pink as ever, coloured with the present, you sigh back out
and maybe remember me as the breath you gave goes
back into the atmosphere and turns itself to rain that
falls on me.

I don’t often use repetition in poetry, or metre. This poem has repetition and metre and a structure and rhythm and everything, which isn’t normally like me. I think this is normally my default setting that I am constantly hitting out against. It seems I have a definite problem with poetry being beautiful in traditional ways, and it’s only out of sincerity or quiet, personal, emotional goings-on that spark this kind of writing in me. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to cynically remove the conventional niceness by trying to make it screamingly hilarious or bitingly surreal or VERY NEW INDEED. When people say they write poems for themselves, I think this is what they mean. I used to believe that everything I wrote had to serve a purpose SOMEWHERE, that it should end up in a certain magazine or can be performed at a certain event, but sometimes there are poems that can be written just for the self. I think this is one of them. It’s called ‘If It’s Too Undignified To Be Present’.

if it’s too undignified to be present
if it’s too undignified to be present

the guests had browsed over the buffet
which groaned on the table uneaten

in the attic a skylight with new plastic panes
an armchair’s wheels scuffing hardwood floors

a man just stood in his boxer shorts
disguising a shaking hand by hiding it

in his hair; i wondered how he was
still visible, on the day when

we were all drinking brandy in the greenhouse
the snow in the clouds made the sky pink

and my face in the windows obscured
by the garden reflected back to me

nobody will recognise me here
standing limp in the throw of the sun

the sound of the city kept peaking and falling
as the crowd started questioning how

and the hands on the clock like a drowning man
waving when pulled out to sea

amy winehouse will probably die soon
that’s got nothing to do with the pair of us

our only options are silence or wanting
ask me if i’m too frozen turn back

if it’s too undignified to be present
if it’s too undignified to be present

the self-depreciating creative and the trends of melancholy

The link that I have just posted sparked quite a debate when I added it to my facebook. The headline at once is misleading; somehow suggesting that having a creative mind is a mental illness itself which is completely false, rather, the creative mind can mimic symptoms of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (chemically that is, not in terms of mood and behaviour in the individual which is important to understand), and that those with mental illness often find solace in creative activities, in fact sometimes they are a very necessary outlet. However. Today’s post has nothing to do with that debate (though it is an interesting one and I’d be happy to welcome it in the comments section), but it has a lot to do with the appropriateness of misery in poetry today. 
I think it could be just me, but I can’t bear to read any more poems that talk about self-loathing and emotional pain. That’s not to do with any of you, it’s largely to do with me. I’ve written too many of them myself – my poems normally fall under the following categories:

  • I hate myself and I want everyone to know that I hate myself because emotionally I’m clearly still 13.
  • I’m in a complicated relationship and I hate the person I am madly in love with and I’m too immature to understand that it’s not going to get any better. 
  • I’m in a happy relationship and I’m too insecure to understand that not everything is a sign that it’s going to go wrong.
  • I’ve gone and lost my mind again.
  • Sex.

These topics are poems I have a hard time dealing with when they arrive in the inboxes of my Sadcore Dadwave zine or the submissions editor of Metazen where I also edit part time. But why? I don’t know. I think it has something to do with me cynically thinking that this ‘trend’ is over, or more so I’m cursing my own lack of originality and and displacing that annoyance onto others. I just feel like these subjects, when approached, almost need to be done a lot more artfully than other things. We’ve had confessionalism, we’ve been through expressionism, we’re through with romanticism, we’ve written these poems since we were 12 because that’s how we thought poems should be written. The poems that are in the public imagination are the ones we think of when we first embark on a writing career and so those are the ones we are so quick to subconsciously emulate. That, plus the link between mental illness and creativity. A lot of us are depressives. In fact most of us are. The hard feelings we struggle with are the exact ones that make for (if done incorrectly) boring poetry. So where does this leave us?
In a really stuck but necessary place. We, as mature poets, know we cannot just write down words that rhyme with and including “pain”. We can’t fall into the easy metaphors of dark, bottomless pits, we can’t mention the black dog following us around and we cannot expect a discerning audience to immediately empathise with us before they look at our poems as a piece of art and not a cry for help. This is why when I sit down to write down immediately how I’m feeling (and it’s a poem I’m writing to be shared, and not just kept to myself), I feel like I suddenly need to try a lot harder when I’m touching upon the subjects I mentioned above at risk of hating myself even more. So, after all that preamble, here is today’s poem. I’ve decided to write it in the form of a sevenling, it’s one of my favourite forms as it is simple, succinct, and bound by subtle but tricky rules (which I find beneficial when writing about something I know may come across as a little too moody). The rules are simply this (taken from the American Poetry Journal): The first three lines should contain an element of three – three connected or contrasting statements, or a list of three details, names or possibilities. This can take up all of the three lines or be contained anywhere within them. Then, lines four to six should similarly contain an element of three, connected directly or indirectly or not at all. The seventh line should act as a narrative summary or punchline or as an unusual juxtaposition. There are no set metrical rules, but being such as short form, some rhythm, metre or rhyme is desirable. To give the form a recognisable shape, it should be set out in two stanzas of three lines, with a solitary seventh, last line. Titles are not required. A sevenling should be titled Sevenling followed by the first few words in parentheses The tone of the sevenling should be mysterious, offbeat or disturbing, giving a feeling that only part of the story is being told. The poem should have a certain ambience which invites guesswork from the reader.

So here I go: 

pieces of evening: a sevenling

a hissing static, below-baseline cadre i am housing.
these are silent, unknown photos that spite could fondly
caption with the names i read in books; between breaks.

so i teach myself to smoke again, sleepwalk, drink juice in
lieu of wine and stay awake to catch the snapping of the
baseline back to nought. the cadre stop; i turn, and

 remember it’s just a mouse-click separates me from all this. 

So, I’m using this blog as a place to keep my more academic / experimental poetry, and also to talk about poetry should I ever feel the need. To start with, here’s a post about a poem I wrote this evening.

Sometimes when I don’t know what to write I start off using a random paragraph generator. They’re easily found online, and the one I use allows you to customise what is and isn’t used within the paragraph. I decided my subjects would be Myself and My Other Self, because I want to explore themes of otherness within the self, especially the divided self that we all will experience at some point. This divided self in this instance is to do with a way of thinking, and a way of thinking that works opposite to it happening within the same thought process; e.g when you are thinking something negative and the train of thought won’t stop, but at the same time you are reassuring yourself with rationale. The two ideas are running parallel but are very much opposite. I think it is fascinating how this can happen and does happen every day to all of us. 
I took this idea and generated some paragraphs, which I wrote down and then edited to make them more like poems. I like this poem because it is a mixture of the random and meaningless (the structures and words I took from the random paragraph generator) and the applying of meaning to something irrational and otherwise “empty”. It is as yet untitled. 

myself thirsts for my other self
anomalies block all applicable clouds
my other self complains
a familiar criminal implicates myself, outside
my other self

 and smashes every intention below the wrapper
my other self absorbs this exaggerated science
myself persuades my other self outside another giant
there is neglected logic sugaring myself around the preface.

 my other self fines myself before an awake reminder
were does myself originate? over the considered juvenile
my other self remainders myself.
the shiny freeway judges myself.

 my other self fakes myself without the mistake
myself is the extremist within a studied defense 
myself prizes my other self
the joined stereotype twins my other self beside
a groan.