Wednesday 24 September 2008

The Self and its obsessions

"Marcel Duchamp and John Cage use chance operation to get rid of the subjectivity of the artist. For Cornell it's the opposite. To submit to chance is to reveal the self and its obsessions. In that sense Cornell is not a dadaist or a surrealist. He believes in charms and good luck."
(Simic, C. Dime Store Alchemy - The Art of Jospeh Cornell. New York: New York Review Books, 1992, p.61)

Tuesday 23 September 2008

More about Reality

Reading back through my previous posts on this blog I realise that I have only recently come to view poems as fiction. It seems that I used to assume that a confessional style poem was a representation of reality - or was it that I viewed it as such whilst I was reading it. Rather like the way I like to get immersed in a good film - while I am watching it I can become totally absorbed, for the time the film is on (especially in the cinema) the film is all that exists - it is my reality. This form of escapism can be equally applied to poems - I know in my logical mind that they are probably at least partially, if not fully fictitious but I believe in them totally while I am reading them.

A Trap for Dreamers

"A toy is a trap for dreamers. The true toy is a poetic object."
(Charles Simic, Dime-Store Alchemy - The Art of Joseph Cornell)

Confessional Poetry - Fiction or Lie?

I read an interesting essay last night by an american poet called Ted Kooser who was basically saying that he felt writers should not write what seems like autobiographical poetry unless what they are writing is absolutely true. His view is that a reader implicitly trusts that what he/she is reading and responds accordingly (i.e. feels sypathy for the writer etc). If the reader believes that a poem is a true representation of the poets life and then finds out it is fictitious they feel cheated.

I found this very interesting. Personally I always view poems as being fictitious (like novels) unless the writer states otherwise. I often use things from real life as a starting off point for poems - but my poems are sometimes written by a fictitional narrator, I use real experinces but change them or add to the in the same way that I might do if I was writing a novel or a short story. Obviously if I was trying to write my autobiography I would do my utmost to try and recreate a true account of the events of my life. Poetry, however, I use to explore life events - events that really happened and the ones that didn't. Writing for me is a way to explore alternate realities. To do things differently, to imagine what might have happened if things had been different. I do not do this to try and deceive the reader. I see writing poetry as similar to writing short stories - I create a little universe that I hope the reader can believe in for the time that they are reading it. That is what I look for in the poetry I enjoy reading too.

Monday 22 September 2008

Into the Dust

The placing of the lettering on the dusty ground was especially effective - it made it look like it had been there for some time. I still prefer photographs where you see a fragment of the text rather than the entire thing. I like the mystery of it and am beginning to feel that the content of the text is actually not that important. The text exixts as a gesture of communication and it can add to our understanding of what we are seeing. In trying to work out what the text is saying the viewer is interacting with the work and they may add their own words as they try and work out what the text might be have been missed off of the edges of the photograph.

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Autobiographical poetry and memory

Written autobiography seems to me to be fictitious in its very nature. The act of writing down a life story, containing it within a narrative framework and fleshing out the bones of a persons memories make it at least semi-fictitious – a story that may contain more or less elements of the truth. (Sometimes it seems like modern autobiography is a type of metafiction – especially when reading authors like Alan Bennett whose writing style is like a sustained monologue or one-way conversation with the reader).

Autobiographical poetry differs from traditional autobiography in that it is able to contain just those bare bones of memory, yet those bones can be changed and manipulated in a way unfeasible in traditional autobiography.

Poetry, like visual art allows us to embellish, manipulate our memories and use the truth as a trigger, starting point or a small element within something larger. Poetry allows us to revisit memories and examine and re-examine them, to tell the same story over and over again from different perspectives. It allows us to go back to the past and add the what-if – something that is much harder to achieve in traditional forms of autobiography.
Autobiographical poetry is more akin to real memory in the way that it reveals snippets of a person’s life. Most people don’t organise their memories in a linear way. When I look at my past I don’t see it as a time line stretching back into my childhood. I remember key events, people and places and as I remember each memory triggers other memories, which, in turn trigger more memories – rather like throwing a pebble into a pool of water and watching the ripples radiate outwards.