Thursday, March 02, 2006


The two examples here chart the trajectory of my acquisition of a form called write through, which is when you use the words of one text and re-configure them into a different one.

The examples are the result of a very good exercise the poet can use to sharpen and focus their concentrational ability.
  • Paul Durcan
  • , in his Ireland Professor of poetry lecture on 15 February 2006, said something along the lines of poetry being the ability to turn concentration into contemplation. As though by sheer force of will you can concentrate something into poetic life; which conjours up
  • a John MacNamee
  • phrase, bending the perimeters of consciousness. And this exercise certainly does that.

    I wrote these two in May 2004, a month before I left writing school for a full time voluntary career in alcoholism and literary oblivion. I was sitting at my computer looking out into the back garden and the green spring view spurred me into setting about writing a scenary piece. I was plodding on with the description for an hour or so and just as tedium started to kick in my eye aprehended Ted Hughs's Lupercal and Sylvia Plath's The Collossus perched on the top of the monitor screen. I had got them out of the college library and was due to read them that night. As I scribbled away, an idea came after writing the line
    my eye turns to
    Lupercal resting on the Collossus.

    I decided to juggle what I had already written and reconfigure the exact same words to create the second half of the piece. I would use all the words except Lupercal resting on the Collossus, which would only appear once, acting as a dividing line at the mid way point of the piece. I used all the same words, including the short conjoining words like and, then, the, etc. This isn't really a poem I would put in my collected, more a low grade abstraction which serves only as an example of the form. The words are irrelevant really, as they serve to show the process and demonstrate my first effort at this form.

    Beyond the thin crevasse an upward thrust of green
    and a snow like freeze of mottled tan
    hawk across to subtle shades of tapering yellow,
    brush verde’s tender final trickle
    and caper to the edge of left.

    A rake of garment
    in stark white synthetic blue
    hang inert
    amidst the narrow band of late spring colour
    whose tumbles of profuse symmetry merge
    in precise disorder with the May dusk.

    Birds call excited
    and cry unseen
    to cajole a dog’s gruff response
    in the fading light.

    Falling inward the black mood
    retreats with the blue night
    and I cast for line of weight
    in the measured glare of nature's balance
    and switch on mind to symbol as my eye turns to

    Lupercal resting on The Colossus

    The two minds whose symmetry in precise disorder
    hang profuse in a gruff stark black mood
    - beyond the upward edge of natures tender balance -
    hawk amidst the line unseen
    in synthetic shades of inert weight
    and band across the thin crevasse and thrust symbols,
    which merge by tumble in a rake of mottled colour.

    Yellow green and tan caper into a white,
    falling like snow to freeze verde blue.

    Then - as excited birds of the May dusk -
    they call my measured glare inward
    and taper in retreat to a final trickle
    then cast their subtle narrow cry
    and cajole and dog my garment of response
    to the late spring nightlight left fading

    A highly bland read that doesn't go much beyond novelty, and would certainly not have Neil Astley or Michael Schmidt beating a bath to my inbox with a set of golden handcuffs, or the Barnsley bard Ian MacMillan sticking a microphone in my face expecting magic.

    However, doing this was the mental equivalent of knocking down a brick wall and re-assembling it, forcing my mind to percieve each component word and, because of this seperation process, become more attentive to the precise structure of the initial text and alert to every single word. My mind felt like it were straining itself through a seive, as though I had undergone a first bout of physical exercise after a long spell of sedentariness. The fruits of this brain flexing was a sharpening of its overall sense of awareness to individual words, as the mind tweeked to a higher frequency of recognition; like being able to differentiate individual trees in a wood or gaining night vision.

    This exercise was another one along the way of training my brain to become more flexible and responsive to the esence of language. By using small texts to seperate and reconfigure, the mind develops its ability to chop up, jumble, juggle and re-lay language, just like a builder disassembling a structure to reclaim the material for other uses.

    I also understand now, that the mental fizz that acts of such concentration in composition creates, equates exactly with one of the four poetic joys in
  • The Cauldron of Poesy
  • poem attributed to Amergin. This is translated by Rowan Laurie as the

    joy of fitting poetic frenzy from the grinding away at the fair nuts of the nine hazels on the Well of Segais.

    And creating the piece as a whole was a challenge whose pay off was a second of the 4 Amergin joys, which is the -

    joy of the binding principle of wisdom after good (poetic) construction

    Amergin's first joy perfectly describes the excitement we feel in our heads when composing, and the second captures the tranquil sense of completion which comes after our labours cease and their final product is there on-page to look upon and take poetic pleasure in; a sort of, "I made that" feeling, whicht engenders a sense of self dignity and pride.

    So, with the mental froth in full bubble I decided to try again, but this time using a Hughes or Plath poem as the text to reconfigure. I read the books and settled on Plath's The Collossus. I wrote a 17 line run up before diving in and setting down the juggled Plath words.

    Her's start after the line -----write through----- and are italicized; with the piece as a whole effectively being the second part of the above, blamanche like write through.


    Did she angle wonder on the grasp
    extending reason her creation
    drove wild beyond loathing,
    by constantly digging in hunt of sound
    to knit rock firm sharp pictures alive with,
    like a gem stitched braid
    upon whose surface
    her eye discerned a myriad of texture?

    Did her mind’s farthest anchor reach a coloured butterfly
    wind chanced and framed like a Japanese print
    of bold delicacy
    fittingly unambiguous in a mirror of detail
    where every line rehearsed perfection,
    crisp as stalk fresh shoots?

    Nosed in did her compass net an imprint of
    discordant shadow in savage butt and jagged antinomy
    absent of balance nature or measure

    ----------- write through---------

    like a ruin of anarchy to the horizon line?
    Did she mix thirty years of laboured hours
    in little pails and gluepots
    to create an oracle married in shadow?
    Crawl like an ant over immense dead stones
    in the black fluted night
    and proceed to entirely open
    the lightning sun with the skull of her brow as it rises?
    Grunt cackle and glue the silt from her throat
    to bray at Orestiea,
    or some Roman mule god with acanthine hair
    scaling the tumuli of bald acres under red hills?
    Was she never counted by her father
    or others who
    none the wiser
    no longer listened
    as she dredged her bawdy bones of mourning
    and pieced together with blank eyes
    her pithy historical mouthpiece
    left to colour and stroke our ears?
    Could we perhaps lunch like barnyard pigs on the cornucopia of stars
    which littered her tongue like lysol on clear white plates
    climb ladders of weedy cypress jointed
    by the wind of a blue sky arching above to
    properley squat at some old forum and consider
    landing keel and plum on the pillar of her great lips?

    This is a great method to use on small texts, particularly blogspot comments at various po mo sites, as you can take a slightly pompous sounding deposit and twist it about. It's not important to keep the exact same words I think, only for the very first one you do, as you effectively give yourself an unreal goal and acheive it once then slacken the rules to fit once done. Like deploying meter. Once you have that form to your own personal satisfaction, then you can use it how you wish.

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