Monday, October 17, 2005

Matt Welton's workshop & stuff

I did another workshop with Matt Welton at the Whitworth Art Gallery on Saturday, which was most enlightening in some ways. We looked at an extract from George Perec's A Void (the English translation by Gilbert Adair) which is a lipogrammatic novel that misses out the letter "e" altogether - even in the translation. The short extract we read sounded over-the-top and overly vatic but was quite fun. Then we were asked to write something about the Thomas Joshua Cooper exhibition using the same technique.

I came up with this (revised since):
Still air. A vast and liquid loss. Look.
What do you know? What draws
to this coast, this wild placidity? Nothing
but light, that burns and
coils, that calls
to nothing down in a darkful hold. A sun
finds its horizon off to south, to north,
to all points. What world is this? The sky
I sail a cloud across.

It sounds a bit like WS Graham, circa 1945 - no bad thing I guess. Maybe I should continue it.

We got into a discussion about whether poems have to have meaning. Matt's a kind of formalist of the Stevens school - poems are about things like sound, the feel of the language, they don't have a specific meaning. Well in one sense, I agree that sound is an important factor. But meaning happens even when you look at abstract pictures - people create meaning, even where the poet intends none. That doesn't have to be narrative, or rational meaning; it can be a purely (is there such a thing?) emotional response; it can trigger off a train of thought, a memory, even if the writer has no idea that it means or can mean that. I often find myself incorporating other peoples' interpretation of my poems into my interpretations.

Just a few final thoughts on Prynne: I suspect that there is a lot of deeply organised thought in his work that I'm just not getting, and I'm perfectly fine about that. I don't think he's a bad poet; he may even be a brilliant poet, and I'm missing something vital. Well, fine. We can't like everyone, and why should we? We identify with the poets that move us, that stimulate us to feel and to think; and if someone doesn't do that, we move on. Too often, we get angry about the so-called dross of "post-avant" or "school of quietude" poets we just don't take to. OK, Andrew Motion is the most boring poet on the planet and he's the poet-laureate and I'm not (that's £10K a year I'm not getting...) but that's not everyone's opinion. "Always accept the possibility that you might be wrong" as the Quaker Faith & Practice has it.

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