Saturday, October 21, 2006


The week before last I was fractious, pissed off, in a foul mood, this last week I've been positive, confident, optimistic. Yet its also been a bit of a rollercoaster, too much on, not enough time to think, and zooming from one thing to the other without a thought. One of the writers at Decapolis yesterday made the various obvious point that writers need silence, stillness, but then again, having moved from Athens to Berlin, she'd moved from one frantic place to another - silence, stillness were possibly another "ideal" that in reality we never get. F. Scott Fitzgerald could never write when he was drinking, yet could he live when he wasn't? There's two sides to Fitzgerald's drinking, early on he was poor drinker, a fall down after two glasses drinker. He couldn't hold his beer. Later, he died of his alcoholism. I guess he must have been a heavy drinker then, able to drink past the pain. So this week's been convivial, yet I've also had the daylight to return to, so I've stopped at a point. And I'd be happy to have a time off from it. Something is heightened - that optimism perhaps. I realise that I've not been talking about what I've been writing. Not that I've been writing that much, but some poems. Untitled ones. Full of Dickinsonian dashes. Some phrases I like, "the terrifying forefront of life", "I am the slave of twenty tribes," - and a metaphysical side to them. They're creating a language of emotion from the detritus of life. Do I mention "persons unknown" because I was listening to Crass last week? No matter. Language is not negotiable. Yet, something else David Constantine said yesterday, was that in translation you realise that every word counts, since it can only mean what it says. Yet, my poetry is both tentative and speculative. I'd like to think Dickinson was both those things - I can't quite put my hand on my copy of Harold Bloom's "The Western Canon" but that inveterate overcompensator seemed a little absurd in his gushing essay on Dickinson, something about her having the finest intellect of any American poet, when - to me at least - it is to the emotion that Dickinson appeals, most of all. And thats what I mean by tentative and speculative - that she was tentative because her subjects, God, life, death, love, are too large to be certain about, and speculative because in trying to make sense - or even engage with them - that's what she was doing. In a sense, I'm in disagreement with Constantine, for though I believe every word counts, it is not that every word is perfect, in the perfect order, rather that our tentative-speculative writing creates a case that that is the case. In other words, the act of creation is what creates the perfection. An early Keats poem that remains a favourite, "On first looking into Chapman's Homer", is very far from perfect, yet it is Keats putting down this homage, and making that tentative-speculative stab, that gives it quality.

MUCH have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told 5
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne:
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken; 10
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

No comments: