Tuesday, March 08, 2011

First draft

I comb my hair
(post removed)


Titus said...

First stanza stunning. Its the second that's just a little too much, maybe, at the moment.

Marion McCready said...

thankyou! you're probably right about the second stanza, thanks for that :)

swiss said...

wow, you're on fire at the moment. agree with titus re the second stanza tho

Jim Murdoch said...

I’m struggling with this one. The imagery is pretty but I’m trying to look under that. Why would a woman comb her hair with seaweed? Is this something like pouring ashes over ones head, a sign of mourning? Are you using the pods symbolically to represent the infant in the womb and the man entombed? So, where do the flowers come into this? I looked them up but apart from where they grow I can’t see anything special about them. A title might have helped but I somehow doubt it. Sorry, Marion.

Marion McCready said...

thanks for that, swiss!

hi jim, yes a kind of mourning and also a becoming one with the sea and all that that represents. there is nothing special about the flag iris other than that it is there on the machair.

Jim Murdoch said...

See that’s where I get stuck. I see the flower and look for more. When is it just a flower and when is it just a clump of seaweed? I thought about saying nothing this time rather than show up my difficulties but I don’t like not getting this stuff. I can only bring what I have to the poem though and even where you haven’t embedded meaning in the piece I still feel a need to impose it on the poem. “What is the point of a poem,” I find myself saying to myself, “if it doesn’t mean anything?” I need to connect the various elements in the piece and if the flower is just a flower then why is it there? I assumed it was a key element – I looked it up in Wikipedia – but nothing jumped out at me. If the woman is mourning then why? Her husband hasn’t died at sea so why is she looking to become one with the sea? That would have made more sense to me. If there is no narrative then how do I read the poem? This is a serious question. What do you want me to do with this poem?

Marion McCready said...

good question jim, thanks for asking. you're right, there isn't a straightforward narrative in this poem or probably the majority of my poems. that doesn't mean that there isn't any narrative, just not a beginning, middle and end kind of linear story.

I'm strongly influenced by imagism and symbolism, using images to carry emotional weight. what I post up here are draft pieces and sometimes they go through a lot of changes before they are ready and your comments have certainly helped in the past in that process.

you're asking me basically what do I expect you to get out of the poem. ideally I'd like you to experience it as a series of images and sounds playing in your head, to feel the emotional weight of the images, the sensuality of the sounds, even just the look of the words and the strange juxtapositions, and in that way let the poem come alive for you as an experience. as opposed to reading it with your analytical hat on saying 'but what does it mean'...! this isn't to say that I don't want my poems to be analysed or for you get find a narrative in there, it's just not the primary purpose of the poem.

also, some of the obscurity in my poems dissipates when I'm reading them aloud, or in a reading I'd provide some context to them which makes them much more straightforward.

so here you have the disadvantage of being my guinea pig reader, where you only get to see the drafts which I rarely contextualise!

Jim Murdoch said...

If I look at this poem and ignore any meaning – hard for me – all I’m left with is an overpowering sense of sadness. This has less to do with you than me though. Carrie and I were in a shop, a gallery, in the east end of Glasgow a few years back and there were a collection of portraits on a wall all by the same artist. Carrie said, “I like the sad one,” to which I replied, “Which one’s that? They’re all sad.” A reader brings his or her own baggage to a poem; they will also attempt to translate it, to recontextualise it. I’ve just commented on a poem by Art where he’s standing on a cliff’s edge and the only way I could pass a comment was referring to something that happened to me over thirty years ago. It’s easily twenty years since I stood on any beach but when I was twenty-one my daughter was born and on our first trip back to my hometown I drove down to the jetty and showed my daughter the sea. It was quite rough and my wife thought I was mad. Clearly my connection with the sea was much stronger then that it is now. If I never saw the sea again it wouldn’t trouble me that much. So the setting of this poem has become quite alien to me. The fact that it’s by a woman isn’t a problem.

What bothers me is that you feel the need to provide a certain degree of explanation when reading a poem like this to an audience. I hold the view that the more you have to explain a poem for a reader to get it then the worse poem it is. That doesn’t mean that a bit of background can’t enhance the experience but it shouldn’t be necessary; a poem should stand or fall on its own merits.

I have no problems with symbolism but interpretation belongs to the reader. How am I supposed to interpret the yellow flag iris? A website says that “the flower symbolism associated with the iris is faith, wisdom, cherished friendship, hope, valour, my compliments, promise in love, wisdom.” That’s too broad a base for me but I guess if the wind can’t uproot it then we must be talking about an ongoing feeling presumable one associated with the woman’s dead husband, assuming of course that they were married.

I have no problem being your guinea pig. A lot of guinea pigs are fussy eaters though. I guess I’m one of them.

Marion McCready said...

that's exactly what I want you to do, bring your own context and experiences to the poem, I don't want to limit the poem to my own interpretation.
don't get me wrong, I don't feel the need to provide a substantial explanation, I expect a poem to stand on its own two feet also.

re the flag iris, all of my poems are set in real places and sometimes a flag iris is just a flag iris, just as in other poems I write about birch trees or douglas firs etc.

I'm thinking of calling it The Minch Maenad, then the reader is given a setting in which to place the poem, the presumption of a state of madness in narrator, and a sense of the mythical in the poem.

so then surface interpretation of the poem is that of a mad woman on a beach next to the Minch combing her hair with seaweed, visualising it as leaving blood clots in her hair that no matter how strong the wind blows, and the winds blow pretty strongly next to the Minch, it will not remove them from her hair. then there are three things also which cannot be taken away real and metaphorically by the wind: a frozen baby in her womb, the literal flag iris on the machair (which then becomes a symbol of something fragile but ultimately strong and rooted in a harsh environment), or the ashes of someone from under the earth. essentally a poem about a woman driven mad by the grief in her life.

Jim Murdoch said...

The title would help – I didn’t see the woman as mad, simply distraught and bereft – but we still have the problem with the flower. I guess the only answer to that is the one attributed to Freud: "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Roxana said...

you took it down after only 4 days!!! :-( not even 4!