"I have nothing to say and I am saying" - a quote by John Cage, used by Edwin Morgan in one of his concrete poems and kind of appropriate for this blog. I thought I wasn't going to write anything because I didn't have anything to say. So I thought, well, why not write about having nothing to say?
Some people have a lot to say in their poems - they are going to write a poem, for instance, about the bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki (we've just had the 60th anniversary of that atrocity), or about global capitalism. If you come from a society where corruption is pandemic (as many of my African friends do) there you are with a subject right on your doorstep. I find it really difficult to write if I have that definite a subject. When asked to write a poem for Conscientious Objectors' Day, I wrote a very bad piece of propaganda that won't ever see the light of day again if I have anything to say about it (quick - chuck it in the bin before the literary executors get hold of it and publish it in a variorum edition!)
Mayakovsky wrote propaganda - and I wonder if he really liked doing it because his best poems are very personal, as well as radical and revolutionary. I don't have any big themes and I don't tend to write big poems. Well - I recently wrote about Hitler and my latest poem namechecks Hector Peterson - so I don't leave them out either. But I can't sit down and write about anything in particular. I write around subjects, mix and match things and am getting very fond of using bricollage as a technique - even collaging my own words, and there's very often hidden quotes in my work. I read some David Schubert on the recommendation of John Ashbery (in his Other Traditions) and liked the way he made poems up from fragments written in notebooks. My latest (a poem about Soweto) uses something from the poems I wrote some time ago using Oblique Strategies cards. Well, it seemed to fit.
What I try to do (and don't always succeed) is to find the emotional heart of whatever nothing I'm trying to tease out. That to me is poetry.
I'm going to try and solicit a few other peoples' poems on this website I think. I'm getting tired of the sound of my own voice.
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