My need for poetry

I began writing out of neccessity.  I needed to touch my burning heart and I was 15.  I remember writing before that, but not in that way.  Outpourings of words drenched in feelings.  Unintelligible teenage symbols.  The sense of being in flow was intoxicating.  I have never stopped writing.  I don’t want to and  still feel that the little voice that comes through writing can be mysterious, elusive, profound, not me, me, beautiful,  strange.

Previous Poems Jar in My Headcase

Sometimes I don’t like what it sounds like.  The first poet I was captivated by was ee cummings.  I loved the way he split language apart to reveal joy and nature.  I wanted to write like that, a natural jazz of language.  Influenced by reading Siddarta and Cosmic Trigger I developed a more and more elliptical way of writing.  I wanted a writing that revealed verbs, the verbs of life, the flowing stream of it.  I eradicated personal pronouns from my writing.  No “I” no “you” just things happening, an impersonal and transcendental poetics.

I collected these poems in an unpublished selection called “previous poems jar in my headcase”.

Diary of a Candle by Water

As you might imagine, the poetry was at times hard for others to fathom,  often difficult for me to fathom, but I felt close to it, it meant something for me, and showing it to others produced a feeling of sensitivity. I wanted to protect it.  Within this,  I would sometimes recieve poems that were complete, and had clear imagery. I very much leaned towards the belief of the poet as an impersonal channel from a collective unconscious.  My first proper poem “Passionflower” came about like this, from paying very close attention to a passionflower that lived outside my back gate.  I watched it carefully for months, and one day it gave me a poem, fully formed.   I wrote a long poem called “Diary of a Candle by Water” and another called “Gatwick Rises” that were written without editing. “Gatwick Rises” is based on time I spent working as a cleaner at Gatwick airport to get money to go interrailing.  It’s premise is that teaching can be found anywhere.  “Diary” is an attempt to imagine a liquid soul in a place before and after death making sense of its life whilst simultaneuously living it.  “Gatwick Rises” is easier to understand!

A Daycircle of Poems

Contintually writing a poetry in which my self was given no space was hard, although I didn’t realise it at the time.  I couldn’t sustain writing like this, and events in my life and pysche necessitated change.  I needed to explore the shadows, my shadows.   I had to, they sought me out.   This process is described well by another poet Robert Bly as “exiling, hunting and retrieving the shadow.”  Ursula Le Guin’s “a Wizard of Earthsea” describes this too.  Jung is an important touchstone, and he describes the encounter with one’s shadow as the entry point to the objective psyche.    Bly describes the retrieval as “eating your own shadow”.

Not all my poems were shadow work.  I created a booklet with my sister that bridged a gap between the transcendental poems of “previous poems” and  darker stuff with a booklet called “24 hours: a daycircle of poems.”  This was a great opportunity to showcase my sister Xanna’s excellent poetry and to print something.  I was pleased with the results.  My poetry was becoming skeletal and esoteric, seeking out strange forms, invisable things, like in a poem i wrote called Skeletal Roots.   I read Ted Hughes and liked it very much.

Entwind Mind

I developed these ideas further in a curious experiment that I called “Entwind Mind”  “Entwined Mind” included a sequence called “Hero the Clown in the Ghost Garden.”  The idea was to create an imaginary character and setting – in this case a clown called Hero who wasn’t heroic.  He lived in a ghost garden – beautiful, transparent and intangiable.  His desire was to leave the ghost garden and find a way to the material world, to a real garden.  The way he does this was through encountering certain women.  As he falls in love, a sticky black shadow begins to drip and coelese somewhere, slowly gaining power, until it is strong enough to attack Hero relentlessly.   Woven into the narrative of his story were autobiographical poems.  I wanted to set up the same relationship between imagining and “reality” in the book that Hero feels in his life.  I felt in this way I could explore for myself the connections between what I imagined and what I experienced just as Hero was attempting to.  Art and Life would entwine with each other like a rope, as they do anyway.

the Carnality of Flowers

The theme of “Entwind Mind” is the relationship between Hero and the women he loves, the angel and the witch and the shadow he must reclaim as his own.  I like Hero and I like the fairytale setting of his poem-story.  However, in order to more fully explore sexuality I needed a language closer to the erotic beauty and intensity of human experience.  Written like this, it sounds like it was a choice!

Broken Glass and the Sea

Having written about all these things, I should put some up!  So far all that is up are poems from my latest shift, which is best demonstrated by Broken Glass and the Sea.  It is the desire to move further away from the ghost garden and deeper into the world, not denying its shadows but also giving space to its beauty.

that’s the plan…

1 Response to About

  1. Pingback: find a thread of soul and follow it. | Toby Chown

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