Thinking in words or not.

I’ve been trying to write my “Charcoal Bridle” poem this week.   This has meant I’ve been thinking a lot about things non-verbal, since this (verbal and non-verbal understanding) is what the poem is circling around (like a drowned fly around a plughole, to nick a simile from someone.  Who?  I dunno.  Probably someone like Don Paterson, or the late great Michael Donaghy, whose The Shape of the Dance I read a few weeks ago in one sitting.)

Trying to write about it is –  inevitably – really bloody difficult, the chief difficulty being that every time I try (to write about it), I end up sounding like a terrible pastiche of Virginia Woolf.  For example, this from my notebook last Tuesday:

…to try and feel the green of the tree ahead of me, to be, soak up, soaked in, the sounds I hear, the haphazard music the world makes – those chords provided by wheel, brake and rail on entry to Euston, the Manchester train that time – where I hear that, see, feel that, maybe that is it……

Ye gods.  All those short, embedded clauses, separated by commas, consisting sometimes of merely verbs, the use of the infinitive, the generalising, beautiful yet ultimately meaningless statements about the world, juxtaposed with the particular as seen in the station name, the train route…how like a wave, the flap of a wave, for it was at Bourne where the leaden circles dissolved into the air…she would buy the flowers herself…

You see what I mean?  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Woolf.  Mrs Dalloway is one of my favourite books and has been ever since I studied it at ‘A’ level.  But she captured that strange rapture of non-verbal understanding so well that I think it’s become my default mode every time I try to think about it ( in words).  And this ensures that every time I try to get to the heart of the experience, I merely reach a representation of it in my head.

At times like this, I wish I’d read Philosophy at University instead of English.

Oh well.  To bolster me in my attempts, I am currently reading;

Jorie Graham, Swarm

Antonio Damasio, Looking for Spinoza (and revisiting his The Feeling of What Happens)

and re-reading Don Paterson’s brilliant, brilliant essays in Poetry Review;  “The Lyric Principle: The Sense of Sound” (97:2, 56-72) and “The Lyric Principle: The Sound of Sense” (97:3, 54-70).

….and trying to remain hopeful.


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