Monday, 6 April 2009

Poetic Thoughts

Not necessarily mine, may I quickly add. Yesterday afternoon on radio four, was a programme delightfully entitled Bookshop. As I tuned into it, I heard the tail end of a conversation the presenter was having with Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate, in which they were discussing the meaning behind the last verse of a poem. Sadly, I can't say which poem this was, because my mind had been completely blown by hearing the poet admit he didn't really understand what he had written himself!

I was so astonished at this, that the rest of the talk receded into a bit of a blur, as I wondered what would be the point of writing anything down that didn't mean anything to you, yourself? After pondering this for some time, I focused on the broadcast again in time to hear Mr Motion say he only ever wrote poetry whilst sitting at his own desk at home.

Did he never get besieged by a string of words that had to be written instantly regardless of where, how or what on? How strange, I thought. Was this why he was Poet Laureate and I was nothing but a word struck female? I'd be interested to hear the views of the many Blogland scribes as to how and why they feel compelled to write poetry. What sparks their minds, and can they 'do it to order', or do they need inspiration before the words arrange themselves into a new poem? Come on people, bare you souls and tell auntie jinksy...(still in lowercase letters, please note, as I don't feel grand enough to use capitals)...

When I got a new scanner and printer some time back, I concentrated for days on getting some of my collected family snaps onto the computer. I still have masses of them to go, for I am a kind of 'family vault', keeping safe old, yellowing photos from long dead relatives. I find them fascinating, even when there is no record of who the fading images depict, or the dates of their births and deaths. The historical significance, of their costumes alone, is a joy in itself.

But there is always a limit to the time I can spend away from writing. It exerts a pull like a magnet to iron filings, and sooner or later I have to give in and let the particles of my being dance to its invisible calling.

The Call

The pen lies quiet,
does not impinge
on consciousness.
Instead, bright screen
images beguile.

Beckoning keyboard
draws restless fingers
to its silken squares.

Information overloads,
as Internet ensnares
an enquiring mind, leaves
little time for creativity
until flatbed scanner
joins both worlds
in a faded image flurry.

Once restored,
old snapshots call forth
long forgotten stories
from recesses of memory
and the pen calls loudly
Write, write, write!"


  1. A lovely post Jinksy. I shall try to hear the Motion broadcast on BBC I-player. Thanks for that. Sounds most intriguing. As for not understanding what he had written, I think in much great poetry there are layers of meaning that the poet did not intend and did not consciously include. All kinds of issues cloud and change a poem's meaning. Thanks again.

  2. Good Monday Monring to you, auntie jinksy. I guess the way of it is somewhat different for everybody. Happy write, write, writing to you.

  3. Hmmm. Interesting. I hardly ever think of a sentence so wonderful that I'm afraid to forget it and need to write it down immediately.

    Have you read this post?

    Hugs xx auntie jinksy

  4. Why does "auntie jinksy" conjure up the image of Ray Bolger in Arsenic and Old Lace?

    Good post. Good poem. Good grief! That last one is my reaction to the poet laureate's comment...but I sort of know what he means.

    I once wrote a poem called "Delirium" and thought I was just cleverly stringing together completely unrelated images. The title didn't occur to me until I was finished. Then someone who read it said she liked how the nurse kept coming into the hospital room to check on her patient. Such a thing had never entered my (conscious) mind.

    Here's the poem:

    by Robert H. Brague

    No Byron, I, and yet the thought still lingers,
    Will-o’-the-wisp, upon my fevered brow;
    Elephantine, its moving, grasping fingers;
    Lady Macbeth, and do you haunt me now?

    Ramifications swell in deep contrition;
    Oceans recede, but in their sunset glow,
    Farther away than ever life’s ambition;
    Kennedy-like, the newly fallen snow.

    Brandishing swords, the ballerina tiptoes;
    Duchess of Windsor, grieving at her loss;
    Scalpel in hand, the purple eucalyptus;
    Garden of Eden; Christ upon the cross.

    Mountains volcanic, carousels spinning brightly;
    Feeding the turtles, innocent, childlike, pure;
    Mother of God, why do you visit nightly?
    Pity my state, and pray they find a cure.

  5. "I once wrote a poem called "Delirium" and thought I was just cleverly stringing together completely unrelated images"

    Can't help thinking you thought right, Blogpal! But YOU said it, not me...
    I actually try to always make sense, at least to myself, then it's OK for others to make non-sense of it if they choose.

  6. I've never understood the type who just strings words together for some abstract effect, not looking to make sense or caring if it doesn't. I am in love with clarity. I would rather someone be pedantic and long-winded than leave me wondering.

  7. I couldn't just wait if I had a poem on my mind. I have to get it down straight away. I like my poems to rhyme. I can't understand anyone who writes poetry who cannot understand it. Seems really silly!

    Same with blogging. If I think of a post, I have to get it down. I carry a notebook and pen where ever I go.
    I am the same with photography too. Have to get those pictures.

  8. Oddly enough, I am both pedantic and long-winded. What makes my poem make sense is its title, "Delirium." I thought you both would have caught that. Unless, of course, neither of you has ever been delirious.

    I am also impressed with Suldog's twiddling capabilities.

    jinksy, I have edited my profile so that the wish you expressed can now be fulfilled.

  9. maybe he's got a really good memory. if i don't write it down it escapes. i agree with the layers thing. very intersting poet - thanks

  10. I always felt that some " real poets" didn't write things that made sense but they looked beautiful and felt beautiful.
    I like your poetry it always says something.
    Now I write a poem a day because that's the challenge for the month . But in a million years I would never claim to be a poet.

  11. I can't write poetry to order, but I can wibble on at length in prose - Can you tell?

    I am more afraid of writing poetry than I am prose, perhaps because I revere it more - I haven't over-thought what that is about before now, la jinks...

    I think poetry must come from a place of meaning - A memory, something one has seen or lived - When they are just words strung together, then next we'll have computers able to write poems like code, and that will be a strange world to live in, non?!

    I think your poetry is very you, very alive, and unique - Often stunningly beautiful, and always very sweet and touching. I hope that makes sense, jinks - Such an interesting post! x

  12. jinksy - Nothing to do with Andrew Motion and whether poems should be more or less transparent in their meaning, though I've been going on about that question and the related one about the incomprehensible ways some people talk about poems over at the Plumbline School - I wanted to say that my brother had me put many of my hundreds and hundreds of family photos on Facebook, a venue I thought was just for teenagers to gab at each other on. As it turned out, it was a brilliant idea. All my cousins and aunts and second cousins and so on were able to look at them, steal them for their own collections, fill in blanks in information and take them to some of the elderly members of the family who had the pleasure of seeing their childhoods over again. It was really a wonderful venture.

  13. ... and the pen calls loudly
    Write, write, write!

    Yes, that's how it is! I have blank books and notepads and index cards simply everywhere. Most of what goes on them is pure drivel, but I am compelled to write what crosses the feeble brain. One day I saw a cardinal out by the pool, and these words tumbled from my pen before I could even think:

    Flying fire, he
    traverses space
    kneading the air
    rescinding with his plump
    paprika-colored self
    the paleness of
    white-hot sun on
    sapphire water.

    Oblivious to souls
    above him and
    bones beneath him, he
    exchanges pleasantries
    with boon breezes
    and reddens the fence
    where he rests equably
    flickering like a flame.

    Then igniting a path
    culled from sun heat, he
    throbs away, kenning
    gardens, plots, acreage
    as bedizened and coy
    he burns a trajectory
    frail but permanent
    the sky his conduit.

  14. Your post certainly called out the poet in a few folks! I cannot write poems to order, but only when the Muse inspires... which has been only a few times in my life. When it comes, it comes. I don't "think" in poetry as you, and others, do.

    I did once create and write a poem while driving alone at night. (Fortunately the highway was almost deserted and I did not endanger anyone else.) I held the steering wheel with my left hand, floundered around in my handbag for a pen and found a sheet of paper in the console between the car seats. I had the poem written (although not in straight lines) before I had driven another 10 miles. If I had waited, it would have been g.o.n.e.

  15. Fascinating discussion you've started here, J! (Or did Motion start it, on the radio?) As others have said, I think there can sometimes be layers of meaning hidden from the conscious mind of the poet: we're not always aware of the choices we make in a range of matters, not least which words to put down on a page. And talking of words, love yours...

  16. A poet I am not. To me, what makes poetry beautiful is when it makes me feel something very deeply and/or it conjures up lots of imagery in my mind. The Poet Laureate's method sounded contrived to me.


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