Friday, June 14, 2013

 I always knew I would like Alice Oswald's poetry but somehow never got around to picking up any of her collections. However I was so impressed by the Oswald poems we looked at during our workshops in France and especially by her composing method of meditating and asking things in the natural world to tell her their 'names' in order to write about them. It helped me write a poem about the water irises that I'd been struggling to write since I got to France so definitely another conceptual tool to add to my toolkit.
I also came across the typescript of an interview Oswald did for the BBC on 'Poetry for Beginners'. It's an absolutely fantastic read, in some parts I was sure I was reading Ted Hughes. I especially loved this section -

  "Poems are written in the sound house of a whole body, not just with the hands. So before writing, I always spend a certain amount of time preparing my listening. I might take a day or sometimes as much as a month picking up the rhythms I find, either in other poems or in the world around me. I map them into myself by tapping my feet or punching the air and when my whole being feels like a musical score, I see what glimpses, noises, smells, I see if any creature or feeling comes to live there."

Isn't that a wonderful image? You can read the rest of the interview here.
I've since bought her Woods etc collection and thoroughly recommend it.


Clarissa Aykroyd said...

I heard/saw her read at the T S Eliot Memorial meeting - from her Memorial collection. She is really fantastic and riveting. Her language is sort of deceptively simple and incisive.

David McKelvie said...

I've loved her for ages. :) There's a good essay in a recent TLS about her that, if I *ever* get to Dunoon, I can give you a copy of.

Her husband (Peter Oswald) is also v. good.

Marion McCready said...

I'd love to hear her read, maybe she'll come up to StAnza one year!

David, yes you must come over to the other side... Dunoon that is :)

Jim Murdoch said...

I like the notion of a poem as a “breath map” although I think she’s missing a fourth kind of breath or pause and that’s the one for which there’s no indication whatsoever, the one that just feels right. All you have to do is listen to a few actors delivering those famous lines “To be, or not to be, that is the question” to realise that so much is missing from a poem when you receive it; poetry has to be a collaborative exercise. For many years I wondered what the role of the director was in a film and why such a fuss was made about them. Why didn’t the writers get more credit? I watched a little play last night, one of the SkyArts efforts. This one was directed my Matt Smith and maybe this was me reading into it but I could feel his presence there shaping the piece. I’ve often wished that poetry was more like music. I love the way in a score everything is considered and yet there’s still room for the performer to interpret.

Roxana said...

i adore this quote!!!

i am curious, how exactly did you "use" this "method" for the water irises?

Marion McCready said...

to me you're talking about the voice of a poem there, Jim, which I'm really just learning to listen out for.

it's great, isn't it Roxana? :)

well I'm very used to observing nature and I've often imagined my centre-of-being in another natural object in order to imagine the relationship between that and the thing I'm writing about from a different perspective. But this method wasn't working for the water iris so instead I literally asked it to tell me it's own name and through that, reveal its own nature. I guess I personified it but rather than intentionally using it to describe my own emotions I listened to what it had to say and it told me its own story which is another way of saying this approach gave me a new way of tapping into my unconsciousness which is where you need to be to write the poem!

Roxana said...

very interesting, Marion!!! thank you...
i was just reading this on a forum, about the japanese concept of kokoro, explained by a very knowledgeable shinto-follower. it might resonate with your own observations and methods of creation (of listening to the world, how i love that):

"The Shinto concept "Kokoro" involves triple (at least) resonance and is not translatable onto English.
This idea is essentially untranslatable into English by dictionary tools. I tried hard but they don't grasp the subtle sense of multiple resonnance among separate things.

We can approach understanding through analogy, however. You see into a dictionary, it is telling you kokorois mean Is "pure heart" or similar misunderstanding. The arrow flies wide of the mark. It is like defining that a hat is an umbrella because they both keep the rain off. Essence of definition is lost easily.

Let us to define the subtle sense of Kokoro with analogy regarding resonnance. (interestingly, analogy itself also works by reasonnance. But irrelevant to our main issue at hand).

Then, The Analogy: A great post stands on a mountain and feels the power of nature, the mononoaware or "Primal awe." He is touched deeply, and writes a masterwork of poetry, inspired.

The western view is like "Genius poet was inspired by nature to create this masterwork of poetry."

The Shinto view of what happened is a little different. The poet, the natural scene, and the words of the language each have their own separate kokoros. When the primal awe is felt, this is the triple resonance of the three Kokoros: the Kokoro of the poet, the Kokoro of nature, and the Kokoro inherent in language itself. ("in the beginning their was the Word... Sound familiar? Shinto doctrine sees language itself as dynamic and charged with inherent spiritual power). The three resonate. Perfectly and the masterpiece of poetry emerges as the fruit of this triple resonance.

The awe is powerful; hair on arms stands up. But all credit cannot go to the author: it was the triple interaction of the three seperate, aforementioned Kokoros that wrote it. Not the man alone. The poem is a living being born of intense meshwork of three separate Kokoros reasonatng beautifully in a single thought-moment."

Marion McCready said...

love this, Roxana. yes, similar to geopoetics which I'm very interested in:

"world emerges from a contact between the human mind and the things, the lines, the rhythms of the earth. When this contact is sensitive, subtle, intelligent, you have a world (a culture) in the strong confirming and enlightening sense of the word.
— Geopoetics is concerned with developing sensitive and intelligent contact, and with working out original ways to express that contact." Kenneth White