Monday, August 08, 2005

Nothing to Say

"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.

3 comments:

Scalljah said...

Hi Steven. I came across you on Silliman,commenting on Baraka. I haven't read all of them, as I got to yours and came over straight away.

After getting barred from poem.uk for committing the serious textual offence of leaving deposits under the nom de plume of Ovid, which I imagine contravene the Molestation of Language act existing in the moderators head, I have missed flexing my brain on that forum.

When I eventually got round to getting on via a different ISP address, the chat room had shut up shop due to something like members not treating it with the gravitas moderators believed it should have been shown.

I think your blog is a fine start and should be a good way of gaining extra writing skills.

The net is small in the poetry game and I notice that we started blogging around the same time.

I am thinking of setting up a forum where all the poets of the world can chip in their tuppeny worth. I want to help create a crucible of democracy, where the words do the talking and not any emotional subtext behind the blather that gets posted.

I also notice that we share a Lancashire background. I am from Ormskirk and it is only at this stage in my life that I am getting over that trauma. I keep my hand in with a local music site called the Lancashire Music Collective, basically keeping a root in the fire so I don't drift into being a fake without knowing it.

http://www.lancashiremusiccollective.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=2747&start=30

My latest project is researching the corpus of work in the Fenechas or Brehon Law. I have finally tracked down the various brains who are on it. I thought I had hit a brick wall after getting kicked off the playground of poem.uk, but a few weeks ago the poetry came back, deeper and closer to the fantasy I have been carrying and researching for the last four years. Reconnecting with the oral past is possible I think, at least in respect of acquiring the lingo for arts council proposals.

I got my first bit of money to stage "The Patrick Kavanahg Celebration 2005" which is basically Maurice Scully, Leanne O'Sullivan and the best of us from the Left Bank Tuesday night poetry.

There is a guy here at the mo called Raven from San Francisco and he is the best American to hit Dublin since I arrived last year. A saul Williams delivery, pitch perfect and which me and Noel Sweeney (The most naturally able Irealnds lyric poet I have heard, and I say that having heard from Heaney down)have learned a lot from.

Its on the 1/8/05 above the Palace Bar on Fleet Street Temple Bar, the hack pub that Kavanagh held court at and said of

"There was their gabble of poetry to be heard"

Good Luck

Scalljah said...

This is an intro into the subject by Vincent Salafia, an Irish lawyer who has done all the reading.

Scalljah said...

http://ua_tuathal.tripod.com/law.html