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{Wed 5 October 2011}   About Art Accelerating Art
Art Accelerating Art

We had the first rehearsal yesterday for this performance to be held at the Saatchi Gallery 13-16 October. I met John Angel Rodriguez, curator, and the deep-voiced James Honey and string-master Jamie Romain of A Band of Buriers. The band’s “alternative folk” music is absolutely mesmerising – it was gorgeous to hear it filling the large spaces of the gallery.

The idea is to investigate how audience appreciation of The Shape of Things to Come exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery is affected when music and poetry are performed in response to sculpture. Elinros Henriksdottir asked me to select and perform some poetry in response to certain works and invited A Band of Buriers to do the same in music. Unfortunately, a long-standing personal commitment prevents me from being there for two of the four days of the performances, so I will not perform, but instead I have arranged for three wonderful performers to do it instead: Rosalie Jorda, Gisele Edwards and Gabby Meadows. I am still involved as Project Assistant and will be going to the rehearsals and to the first and possibly the second performance.

The poems to be performed are the “Introduction” and “Earth’s Answer” from William Blake’s Songs of Experience, and my own Smooth Red Woman. The latter is really just a textual spec for a digital poem I intend to make, about thoughts triggered by a beautiful red marble sculpture I saw in Italy, so I didn’t think of it as a final version, but it does seem amazingly relevant in the context of the particular sculptures we’ll be using it to comment on. It particularly raises questions around how women’s responses to art may differ from men’s. All three poems sound amazing in the voices of the three female performers. It’s heartening to feel that themes so personal to me can be shared by and communicated through other women.

If this idea of using some art forms to enhance your experience of another art form appeals to you, or you know someone who might be intrigued by it, everyone in the Art Accelerating Art team would appreciate it if you would Like this post and spread the word via social media!



{Mon 3 October 2011}   Art Accelerating Art
Art Accelerating Art

Hello, hello, my long-languishing blog (and my very occasional readers)! I love you, I really do, and think of you constantly…. well, a bit inconstantly, it’s true, but I do hold you in my heart. It’s just been an incredibly busy year, with three main themes occupying my energies:

  1. Writing content and building an exciting commercial website for RealCorp Luxembourg; as well as ongoing training, consultancy, blogging and other writing for them and for other clients.
  2. Volunteering for Poet in the City as Social Media Manager: creating a WordPress blog and an internal Social Media Wiki on PBWorks, teaching social media workshops, encouraging a mixed bag of users to contribute on the blog, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, assisting with a bid for Nesta’s Digital R&D Fund, and writing a spec to revamp the main Poet in the City website (project on hold for now). I also managed the Poetry and the State event at Amnesty International and assisted with several other events.
  3. Buying a house in France…. more on that later, when I can get my head around the fact that it’s actually happening!

All this has meant that I haven’t had much time for personal creative projects, so I was surprised and thrilled to be approached by the sylph-like Elinros Henriksdotter, after my reading of Shakespeare at the Poet in the City “Dog Days” Drop-In, to particpate in a wonderful four-day initiative (13-16 Oct) to use poetry and music to enhance the experience of sculpture: “Art Accelerating Art”.

(Update 05/10/11: I’ve moved the chunk on Art Accelerating Art to a separate post).



{Wed 12 January 2011}   Reblog: Story Gardens of Holon
Happy New Year!

New Year, new start… well, that’s what January’s for, no? Due to (lots of lovely) work (for which I am very grateful) and an extraordinary amount of travelling, family visiting and hosting in different countries, six months have whizzed by. Well, here I am again, full of fresh passion and resolve!

One of my new roles this year is Social Media Manager for Poet in the City (PinC). I have begun facilitating the organisation’s presence on various social media platforms, including the new Poet in the City Blog. The engagement with social media involves a learning curve for all Poet in the City volunteers, including myself, so I am looking forward to that, and also to introducing PinC’s very large audience to some of the best digital poetry.

Mindful of my own slow and sometimes reluctant journey from being entirely text-bound to enjoying the delights of digital literature, I would also love to see more transliterate discussion here on TiaTalk, so I’ll start by reposting a piece I wrote for www.transliteracy.com. This was published on 29 December 2010 — sandwiched between two humongously extended public holiday weekends in the midst of the festive season, this date was probably not the best time for anyone to read it, so I’m giving it another go here. Please let me know what you think!

Reblog: Story Gardens of Holon: 3-D, immersive, interactive, social and offline

During our MA studies, it was suggested that digital storytelling is non-linear whereas text-based storytelling is linear, and that engaging with online stories is immersive, active, interactive and social, as opposed to offline reading which is less immersive, relatively passive and often solitary.

Those of us who since childhood have known the pleasures of immersing ourselves in a book, imagining our own versions of scenes described, placing ourselves in characters’ shoes, and engaging our friends in repeated acting out of the stories in our own gardens or living rooms (accepting with good or bad humour the inevitable story variations that arise when actors, props and locations do not exquisitely reflect the text), initially found it hard to accept these distinctions.

In one online discussion with classmates, I said,

I was quite startled to realise that … new media art might be defined by non-linear narratives. Is it always a requirement that the reader not be offered, or be able to choose not to follow, a linear storyline? … when I think about the interactive possibilities of the new media, I can see ways to engage the reader and enable them to contribute, but still have them follow a narrative chosen by the writer.

I went on to say,

I think of the non-linear approach as more ‘poetic’, in the sense of the genre of poetry. The best way to engage with this kind of work is in a meditative frame of mind, where one takes the time to dwell with sounds, images and associations and follow these imaginatively. A poem may, of course, have a strong narrative structure, but much of the pleasure if offers is found ‘along the way’, before one reaches the conclusion or the resolution of any ‘plot’. Even in a linear story, attempts to evoke the emotions and perceptions of characters or of the reader may create ‘poetic’ moments during the story. If one maximizes these moments and reduces the linking narrative, even to the point where it is implied rather than described, one may produce a relatively ‘non-linear’ story (although the idea of story inevitably contains linearity).  I suppose that this is my perception of how Inanimate Alice works. There is a linear chronology, but this is suggested rather than detailed, and my experience as the reader is of poetic moments at intervals along that chronology.

This was my limited view of new media’s potential at the time and, of course, it turned out that there was some sense in what our teachers were saying and we learned to identify and value the different kind of immersion, as well as the relative autonomy, creative freedom and social discourse offered to the reader by many online stories.

However, I still felt that these comparisons, necessary though they might be, could devalue the power of text-based stories. I longed to hold on to them while still embracing video games, MMOGs, cross-media narratives and all the other online possibilities… I did not want the new literacies to supplant the old.  Thus, I was delighted when a recent visit to a Story Garden (“Gan Sipur”) in Israel suggested a way of creating and maintaining a transliterate approach to the enjoyment of stories.

Holon, a large city south of and adjacent to Tel Aviv, has 31 of these Story Gardens. Along with the Children’s Museum, the Mediatheque Cultural Center and various other youth-friendly initiatives, they contribute to Holon’s growing reputation as a “children’s city”. Hana Herzman, managing director of Holon Municipality, and Moti Sasson, Mayor of Holon, are credited with originating and driving the development of the Story Gardens project. They explain the concept further in this video:

Story Gardens of Holon (view on YouTube)

In other words, Story Gardens are landscaped sculpture installations where the sculptures are characters, objects or abstract representations of thoughts and emotions from well-loved children’s stories.

Each garden (there may be several within a park) is a visually identifiable, cohesive space for one particular story, but offering unlimited points of access and egress.  A path suggests the author’s original linear progress through the story, but nothing prevents the experiencer from being attracted to or seeking out alternative routes through the story.

Thematic and aesthetic cohesion for a particular story is established by having one sculptor per story, so only one artist works with a particular writer or text to interpret that story, but these unique story gardens are then united by tasteful, spacious landscaping in and between each “storyverse”, as though an editor had placed them in an anthology. See some more examples in Yair Karelic’s photos here:

Holon’s Story Gardens (1 of 2)

Holon’s Story Gardens (2 of 2)

Besides the simple pleasures of experiencing the gardens themselves, from an analytical point of view, the collaborative creation and the confluence of literacies here is wonderful.  In creating a story garden, an author’s text is interpreted by a selection committee, a sculptor, and architects, environmental planners and engineers (often in live discussion with the author), and then re-interpreted with great satisfaction by teachers, parents, grandparents and, most importantly, by the children at whom the entire exercise is aimed.  And taking transliteracy a step further… some of the stories have even morphed their way into the world of philately through photos of the sculptures!

And the text is never far from the story experience, despite its outdoor, 3-D, immersive, flexible and very social nature: apparently the most popular books in Holon are those featured in the Story Gardens. They are borrowed from the Mediatheque library and are taken to the gardens to be read aloud or home to be enjoyed again, by parents, teachers and children.

In a recent wide-ranging post, Reading in the Digital Age or Reading How We’ve Always Read, Kassia Krozser of Booksquare muses most engagingly on the technological developments required to facilitate social reading in the online environment, but what struck me is her assertion that reading has been a social activity for much longer than it has been a solitary one. She reminds us that

Social reading is normal reading. …  Even after the invention of the Gutenberg press, the possession of books was outside the reach of most people. …. The tradition of people reading to each other remains alive and well. …  It wasn’t until mass market books became available that reading, as we know it, was identified as a (almost-solely) solitary activity (overall literacy rates had to catch up as well, but that’s another issue).

I sometimes think of reading as “story absorption” to remind myself that stories were not always bound in books, but I am also glad that, at this point in the evolution of storytelling, when “wreading” happens in a Story Garden (because analysis, comment, reinterpretation and embellishment are inevitable parts of creation and of play), texts may still be part of the discussion.



{Sun 13 June 2010}   Alone Together
Alone Together

There’s something so poignant about the phrase, “alone together”. It stuck in my head after I saw this CNN video about Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir on YouTube. I presume that most readers of this blog have seen it too. I wonder whether the same phrase at the end of John Vennavally-Rao’s report has also intrigued, delighted and troubled you?

I’m putting down here some random thoughts that haven’t fully coalesced yet into a coherent philosophy, but I’m chasing something/ some things that are hard to see.

The haunting beauty of the choral sound and the inclusive arc of differently coloured faces and backgrounds on the red-curtained stage of cyberspace pleased me deeply. I smiled. I watched it again. I forwarded it to a few friends. I watched it again. I studied a few of the faces — each singing peacefully and unselfconsciously as one can only do in one’s own private space. I felt glad and privileged to have access to those private moments mixed together in an enormous public display that reached and continues to reach across continents and across time. It was/is something precious. I googled Eric Whitacre. I was pleased to read that he’s working on more pieces for the Virtual Choir, perhaps some original work…

And yet, why does it haunt me so? The sense of longing, of reaching out for connection that is communicated to me, the viewer-hearer, is largely a function of the strangeness of the presentation, not of each individual’s communication. Most of the singers look extraordinarily serene, like people absent from the world because they’re in “flow” (Csíkszentmihályi, 1990).  People who are physically together when singing together, no matter with how much joy or harmony, don’t wear exactly the same expression as an individual in private rapture. Or didn’t, anyway. As we reach out for connection in this new way, are we inviting others to steal a part of our soul that previously only revealed itself to the walls or landscapes of our private spaces?

Even as I delight in the confluence of digital media that make possible this self-revelatory joining of humans who know nothing of each other besides that all (all of those who are featured, anyway) can sing, I cannot help but be conscious of all those intervening media, “the storage and transmission channels or tools used to store and deliver information or data”. They make the fragile meaning that could not exist if the electricity failed.

But isn’t this just a logical 21st century extension of the artistic process? Artists have always used materials and techniques to transform base material into something else. It’s what artists do. Why does this seem different to me?

Partly, it’s the ephemerality of it — the is-and-notness that flickers on and off at the whim of the switch. Also, it’s the way the human sources are both enhanced by and subsumed in the media. Their “togetherness” is something that the media help us (and them) to imagine. We imagine willingly, but the compulsive clarity of video entices us to go further — to believe, despite ourselves. This mixture of the not-real and the real is disturbing. The putative “togetherness” (not-real) painfully emphasizes the aloneness (real) of the participants. We see each person’s aloneness clearly, multiplied a hundred times in an instant. Usually, we would suspect it only by extension from our own aloneness, when we can risk being conscious of that, and only one-by-one, from the occasional glimpses provided by circumstance.

On the other hand, we also see some elements that inspire us to seek togetherness… that give us hope. Despite our different countries, languages, cultures, genders and body types, we can all sing; we all aspire to make beautiful sounds; we can participate and cooperate to harmonious effect (albeit with the help of a strong guiding and editing hand); we all seek out private time or space to connect with ourselves, we can all be receptive; we can all be gentle. We also all enjoy and depend on similar electronic equipment for our communication and pleasure, so we are patient with each other as we struggle with its vagaries.

As the days passed, my thoughts turned to the creator/conductor/guide/editor — the uber-artist who put it all together. The reach of the work in terms of participants and, even more, of audience, and the fact that the harmony is created in his own private space by one over/above/outside the private spaces of those making the sounds, made me think of him in godlike terms. He is a small god, but with incredibly long digital arms. And now we can all be like him. We “little kings” are no longer held in check by the limitations of our physical resources. We are let loose with the power to make our megalomaniac dreams come true — in a sense — but we pay with the constant awareness of our aloneness.

This aloneness has always been the human condition, but before these digital joinings in eternally-preserved and universally accessible public spaces, we only dipped in and out of this awareness occasionally. Well, there is no way back, unless we have a Butlerian Jihad in our future. Until then, humanity is working out the Zen of our growth into full and constant consciousness of how we really are — just google the phrase “alone together” to see how much this concept exercises us in the current age.

Published simultaneously on www.transliteracy.com.



{Mon 2 February 2009}   Seeking the ideal daily routine
Seeking the ideal daily routine

Sue Thomas posted this question under Talking Points in our Creative Nonfiction module today:
I came across this very interesting website http://dailyroutines.typepad.com/ which prompted me to ask – what is your daily routine? Do you have one? Do you wish you had? What works for you?

I found this website fascinating. One thing that struck me particularly was how few writers write for more than three or four hours a day. Another was how many of them write in the morning. I am also a morning person. Sometimes, I jump out of bed with a huge sense of urgency at 3, 4, 5 or 6 and head straight to my computer. If I do start writing then and if nothing else actively demands my attention (I am very good at procrastinating about things that should be done but aren’t actually shouting at me), then I can write or design projects easily until 11 or 12 am.

Usually, though, I have a much more disciplined routine which results in far less writing! This is because I’m married. Because I currently work and study from home and my husband has to travel to work, all the housework and catering falls to me. His necessary routine dictates mine. We rise at 7 (if I’m not already up) and I must have a cooked breakfast on the table by 8am at the latest so that he can be at work by 9. I usually fit in some housework and about 45 minutes of exercise between 7 and 9 as well. I am much more regular about exercise if I do it in the morning. If I miss, sometimes I can persuade myself to get on the stepper in front of the TV in the evening, but I have to talk to myself sternly to make myself do this!

From 9 I’m back at the computer and work through until 12 or 12.30, when I break for lunch for an hour (in which time I’ll do some laundry and possibly get onto the stepper in front of the TV if I missed it in the morning). Then at 13:00 or 13:30 back to the computer until 6.30 pm. I often have a concentration slump somewhere between 2 and 4pm, so I might read online news, answer emails, browse websites or even watch TV then. At 6.30 I start preparing dinner to serve at 7pm (I don’t do fancy cooking!). By 8pm I’ll finish clearing up, laying the breakfast table and preparing my husband’s work lunch for the following day. Then it’s time for any collaboration with him on online projects or domestic issues, or if we don’t have anything pressing, we’ll both return to our computers until 10pm (well, we always say 10pm, but inevitably end up only getting into bed by 11 or later because he’s a night owl).

I deal with household admin and finances – property, banking, insurance, investment issues, etc. for at least an hour a day. Most of this is online or call centre work which I dislike intensely, and some letter-writing, and it usually goes better if I do it in the morning, but I often leave it until late in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, I don’t function well on less than 8 hours’ sleep, or if I get to bed any later than 11pm. I would so love to be one who could manage on 6 hours!

Sometimes, when I’m deeply engaged in a project or piece of writing, none of the above applies. I’ve been known to spend 12 to 18 hours solid at my computer, only drinking or eating when my other half realizes that I’m shrivelling up and brings me something.

So, that’s my reality, which doesn’t really work for me. One possible improved schedule would be:

06:00 Yoga, self-care, planning
07:00 Light breakfast; read
07.30 Write, study
11:00 Online chores
12:00 Lunch (main meal); read or walk
13:00 Write, study, work
17:00 Housework, dinner prep with music
18:00 Walk or read
19:00 Light dinner and clearing up with music
20:00 Read, play games, collaborate, dance, singing, drawing or music practice
09:00 Prep for sleep
09:30 Read in bed
10:15 Sleep

Seems so simple…. why is it so hard to make this happen regularly?

One answer: Csikszentmihalyi talks of the “activation energy” needed to transition into activities that produce flow, and of the dangers of the lure of passive activities like TV that require very little activation energy. TV is a big problem for me because it’s easier than all the other things. If I could, I would throw it out, but hubby won’t hear of it. Although, recently, I’m glad to report, I’ve been so interested in what I’m learning and doing on the course that I’ve been watching a lot less.

I’d be happy to hear what routines others have or have tried in the past, and especially what motivates you to stick to them.

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{Fri 5 December 2008}   Who needs New Media?

I haven’t blogged for a month, but it’s not because I haven’t been writing. I’ve had my nose to the grindstone, studying the vast amount of course material for my wonderful new MA and writing bits and pieces for creative and critical exercises. I’m doing the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media from De Montfort University in Leicester.  The experience has been really positive so far, with hugely experienced course leaders (Sue Thomas and Kate Pullinger) and a really talented and intelligent bunch of fellow students. The last two weeks have been a bit of a strain, though, because DMU has just announced that they intend to close the course due to the credit crunch. They say (but can we believe them now?) that those of us currently doing the course will be able to complete it.

Even in this dire economy, it’s hard to believe that they would contemplate axing this one – a true flagship programme for educating people for the online world (where there are more and more unconventional opportunities to make money when normal jobs fail).  As an online course, it also must surely be one of the courses with the fewest overheads and therefore the least expensive to run and to promote.

As Course Rep for my year, I’ve spent a lot of what should have been study time collating and representing to the university administration students’ expressions of dismay at their betrayal and questions about our academic future. Of course, I don’t mind doing this, as I really believe in the course, but I hope all the effort will prove fruitful and they’ll decide to revive it. Well, if they don’t, someone else must, because the electronic universe won’t tolerate that vacuum, but boo hoo! then for those of us who were silly enough to give our precious credit crunch cash to DMU!

If you’re interested in the future of new media education,  you might want to see what some experienced voices have to say about this closure at Chris Meade’s bookfutures blog. Chris is a director of The Institute for the Future of the Book in London. In two articles (so far), Chris speaks of his own surprise at the closure announcement, and heavyweights like Howard Rheingold who has taught on the course have joined in to label it incredibly shortsighted.

Sigh… we’ll see. In the mean time, at least I’m writing again, after such a long dry season. See my next posts for a couple of the creative writing exercises that have turned out okay, I think, or at least offer potential for further development.

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{Sun 25 March 2007}   The Priesthood of the Soul
I have just found in an old backup file some essays of mine on subjects close to my heart, which I had feared were lost. They were created in WordPerfect in 1992 and 1993 on my first computer – a 7.5kg whopper of a laptop which I abandoned in about 1997, I think. I have no idea whether these thoughts and approaches would be considered to have any validity now in any current education programme, but part of me doesn’t care. I just want to affirm and reconnect with my experience of “flow” at the time and also to reconsider now these influences which I know have formed and informed my approach to poetry.

As I read through them, and read the markers’ comments again, I am amazed both at the intensity with which my mind was working at the time, and at my concurrent inability then to absorb either the praise or the criticism that the markers gave. My relative maturity now enables me to see how much care was taken by the markers in their thoughtful comments and I am embarrassed to realise how little I valued them then. My driving need for approbation and reinforcement prevented me from realising that people were offering me exactly these simply by taking my writing seriously enough to offer me thoughtful feedback.

I have no record of the mark I received for this one, but the lecturer actually wrote a five-page response to this twelve-page essay which begins as follows:

The Priesthood of the Soul: The relationship between Imagination and Reason in Keats.

The Romantic obsession with the apparent dichotomy between Passion and Reason is given a new twist in Keats’s unique theology:

Call the world … “The vale of Soul-making”…. There may be intelligences or sparks of the divinity in millions — but they are not Souls till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself…. Spirit-creation … is effected by three grand materials acting the one upon the other for a series of years — These three Materials are the Intelligence — the human heart (as distinguished from intelligence or Mind) and the World or Elemental space suited for the proper action of Mind and Heart on each other for the purpose of forming the Soul… As various as the Lives of Men are — so various become their souls (Letter 123, 335-6).i

That Keats favours a chemical metaphor for the processes of both poetry and human experience indicates how much his rational and his imaginative faculties complement each other. In The Chemistry of the Poetic Process, Stuart M. Sperry minutely demonstrates how much Keats borrows from his scientific reading to develop his poetic philosophy.ii He shows that Keats sees poetry as a process whereby the material world’s beauties and travails are absorbed via the senses and distilled, through an inner contemplative-experiential mechanism called ‘intensity’, into an essence of thought. Such thought, however, cannot be equated with rational conclusions arrived at through logic. Sensation acted upon by the imagination (the agent of intensity) produces a fresh complex of sense-stimulating beauties which open up new avenues for exploration. For the reader, the poem then forms an acutely tuned part of his material world and invites him to a similar experience of intensification and distillation of thought. In consequence, the reader’s appreciation may differ from the poet’s. Keats’s own capacity for existing in uncertainty allows his readers to fashion their own souls as they choose. In one letter he asserts that poetry can lead man into contemplation and through it to an active awareness (by which he means sensitivity to potential pathways rather than any single, absolute conviction) which could transform humanity (48, 103-4). This is how the poet functions as priest of the soul in ‘the vale of Soulmaking’.

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{Thu 22 March 2007}   tree and roses
tree and roses

i see
an abundance of roses,
waiting for the tree that cannot move
to come to them;

they
climb-twist, wave-scent,
petal-plunge, dip-dance,
grow, grow…

oh, blow, speed, plant
these seeds there
around the tree
(that, or this, or any of these,
may grow more easily, and faster
than any tree!)

grace it with delicacy,
protect it, love it
with laughing thorns
that scratch and tickle
its deep-grooved bark;
that these sweet roses
may draw blood from any outside hand
that knows not the dance
of tree and roses.

poet, i love you;
i long for you, to hold
you and walk through
roses with you,
dripping lifeblood.

teach me.



Oh happy days! Not one, but two poetry-relevant articles amongst all the bad news in the past few days.

First, I was interested to see this ancient debate revived: John Walsh asks “Is there a link between madness and creativity?” in The Independent. See http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2361028.ece for the full article. The sentence “The idea of creativity as divine afflatus, the breath of God, turns easily into the divine fire, that ignites the imagination but consumes the thinker” particularly caught my eye, because it refers to the mad wonder of creativity and creation that I tried to express in my poem Primeval Watercolour, which is about my surprised discovery in my first watercolour painting lesson of how unpredictable and how intense the colours could be (I had previously thought that watercolour painting was all about delicate, faded, impressionistic landscapes!).

As my poem reflects, the experience made me think of the Judaeo-Christian myth of creation out of formlessness, in particular Genesis 1:1-2: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

By the way, while thinking about this again today, I found this beautifully written exegesis, “Making sense of Genesis 1” by Rikki E. Watts ( http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Bible-Science/6-02Watts.html), which urges the reader to be conscious not only of the worldview brought to the text by its original, Hebrew-speaking, hearers and readers, but also of the writer-reader “contract” that requires the reader to recognise the conventions of genre in determining what kind of truth is being conveyed. The writer asserts that Genesis 1 is poetic and refers to Blake’s burning tiger to suggest a possible approach for interpretation. There is also a good brief overview of other creation myths to support the general argument. One to bookmark, I’d say.

Secondly, I was excited to read “The lost joy of ‘difficult’ poetry” by Roy Hattersley in the Mail&Guardian here:
http://www.chico.mweb.co.za/art/2007/2007mar/070316-poetry.html which contains thoughts related to those expressed in my post Poetry’s Potential and my Comment on my poem On deciding not to marry a priest. Unfortunately, I don’t have time today to summarise any more, but I’m noting the link here for future reference.



This essay by Timothy Steele has been around awhile, but it’s so well-written and its defense of the value of “meter, rhyme and stanza” is so well-supported with resonant examples that it still bears reading.

The Forms of Poetry by Timothy Steele, from The Brandeis Review, 12 (Summer 1992), 28-33

Today, I am particularly taken with these two passages:

“The original revolutionaries perceived more acutely what they wished to challenge or undermine—meter and rhyme in poetry, representation in painting and sculpture, conventional melodic arrangement in music—than what they wished to establish. As a result, the revolution had considerable destructive vitality, but it did not have comparable constructive powers to create alternatives to replace the conventions it swept away.”

“Meters reflect patterns of speech that occur naturally in language. Poets do not invent them out of thin air. To construct a new metrical system, one would first have to construct a new language, or the pronunciation or accentuation of the existing language would have to change radically. So once the battle the modernists fought had been won, their followers tended simply to maintain a somewhat meaningless spirit of rebellion, meaningless because the styles and attitudes against which the rebellion had been directed had ceased to exist.”

It seems an inevitable part of human experience that “the revolution”, after a heady period of free-spirited innovation, always acquires its own orthodoxy and becomes a vicious enforcer of “rules” of freedom. The insistence on the new way of seeing things as the only way of seeing things invalidates the experience, wisdom and creative productions of whole generations, and robs current generations of access to beauties and insights that have empowered and developed human consciousness for thousands of years.

This has always been the pattern with “renewals” in church history. At first they ride on a tide of openness, soul-searching, risk-taking and energetic action as people strive to “live out” their refreshed understanding of the meaning of their faith, sometimes taking great steps of love and courage and martyrdom which change lives and invigorate communities. But after a while, the actions become forms in themselves, nothing more than repeated, futile attempts to recreate the mysterious energy of spirit (Spirit?) that impulsed them so naturally before. The challenge to the status quo becomes the status quo, and the s/Spirit flees.

Why, oh why, is it so difficult for us to maintain “negative capability” (Keats) and realise that any form may contain or even generate mystery, that form does not preclude mystery and that neither form nor lack of form guarantee mystery?



et cetera