Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Paperplanes did a workshop in Burnley recently, and it went very well, despite us getting a bit bogged down in philosophical questions at one time. The Red Triangle Cafe on St James Street is a wonderful place, with good food if the bean & butternut squash casserole with polenta was anything to go by. And they do lovely coffee - good, strong filter coffee.

The people who came along were interesting and engaged fully with the discussions and the exercises. We even persuaded two people who had never read their work in public before to do so, which I suspect was a real breakthrough for them. Actually acknowledging that the stuff you write is actually worth revealing to other people is the first step on becoming a writer who is willing to publish their work. It takes a leap of faith.

So what was the "philosophical issue"? It had to do with making sense. Should a story or a film or a poem actually make sense? Well, of course, there's no real answer. There's such a thing as "artistic sense:" no-one expects a picture these days to "look like" what it's a painting of. Even in the past, the picture space was manipulated to make a harmonious painting, rather than to reflect reality. Nowadays, an artwork is seen as different from the thing or idea it is supposed to represent, and nobody complains about that. Much.

The same is true of stories and poems. They make a kind of poetic sense, in that they connect with a feeling, with a kind of linguistic pulse, with an idea; but they don't neccessarily follow in a logical order from beginning to end, with a neat conclusion at the end. Sometimes, they're all middle. Sometimes they exist merely as a game with words. Sometimes they give off a strong feeling, but are unpindownable (is that a word? It is now...)

TS Eliot's contention that a poem is appreciated before it's understood is still true. Poems communicate through rhythm, through image, through rhyme (not just end rhyme) and in all kinds of ways that can't be put into any other words than the ones on the page. And that's OK.

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