This morning I was reading Mary Ruefle’s chapter ‘Someone Reading A Book’ in Madness, Rack, and Honey and underlined the phrase, ‘I am a writer, and the next step is inevitable: I used what had been revealed to me in my own writing’. This afternoon I was sent an article outlining how ‘an Artic seabed methane pulse is one of the greatest immediate risks facing the human race’ and the article opened with a story about the sudden collapse of the only golden toad population on earth over the space of three years. And just like a writer, I put it to good use!
Dazzling jewel of the mud
Disbelief in enamel
Explosive spawn mobber
Like most things, you were
Both true and untrue
ex-pensive — get it! But should it be cheap or rich. I still can’t decide. I guess I’d have to think about it.
If thoughts are so cheap
I think, I’ll become ex-pensive
Do you think?
You’ll join me.
I am struck by how blue the morning light is on the paper of the photograph, and conversely how yellow the artificial light is in an nightime photo or pink in an afternoon fadelight. Drain was my absolute least favourite word so far, so I wrote about time — corse I did, all poems are about time.
I couldn’t write about your drain
All its words are stunk and dank
Its rats are beginning to gnaw at me.
I had such fun yesterday using the ink as eraser that when I saw today’s word Breakable the only place my mind could go was Break, Break, Break by Tennyson. So I went there. This looks more like a half erasure, using purple ink and letting the thicker and thinner areas reveal more or less of what is ‘erased’. It’s such a well known text that the word ‘break’ which is repeated so often didn’t need to be revealed. In my mind, as soon as you recognise the poem, it is instantly implied. What does it do to the erasure poem to conceal this refrain? How does it respond to the prompt? What is breakable about our words, our voice, our self? What would Tennyson have to say about what is breakable in October 2018? Would he still sound like him?
ooh the inky inkiness of these thick brush strokes of indian ink are so apt for an erasure poem on darkness. I love how the medium of ink led me to this black scorched interpretation of today’s word. I’m also enjoying the way each word or phrase seems to read into the deep space between themselves and also draws double meanings out of each little phrasing. Is it ‘poetry of night sweat, serious and sure’ or ‘in the dark poetry of night, sweat serious and sure’ or ‘in the dark, poetry of night, sweat, serious and sure’? They seem to draw into each other – is it an entity, ‘the watching dusk’ that scorches the eyelashes or is it ‘the act of watching dusk’ that causes the damage? And so on. Lots to think about.
Here’s a link to Elizabeth Rees’ poem Scorched Earth that inspired me to make this inky erasure image – https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/scorched-earth
Today my brain was fullfullfull of other things with no space for bottles. So to even think of ‘bottle’ for a moment raised questions: was it there at all and/or is it there anyway or was it ever there or will it be there even when I’m not thinking of it…and so on. How that translated into the clarity of this inky question is not a question I can answer.
I’m beginning to really enjoy this process. I haven’t gone back at looked at the collection of writings so far but have a growing awareness of an accumulation. It’s interesting to me that all day, I thought I had been too busy with other things to be able to think about swollen but on reflection I had in fact been focussing on it with effort! Poetry is so much about noticing or it’s where it starts. Maybe I’ll call the jotting Small Miracles, Repeat.
All day, I have nothing
but an oak twig covered in lichen
then, just before bed
a poem crawls out of its leaves.
I haven’t even been looking
at the leaves, staring instead at the woody
body, wondering where it could swell.
It couldn’t. It was dead in my mind.
Sometimes, I crawl out of myself
and the sturdy pain of my body
Gasps at my audacity
but I’m already gone, breathing solo.
Angular appropriately lands at the turning point in my concertina book. InkToberish synchronicity. Half way through the month. Half way through the book. All good. Although the poem might be about freezing in the face of fear, it’s also about the pause you can give yourself in that moment to make choices. So as I step over the page and metaphorically go down the other side of the month / book I am aware that I’m enjoying these inky pauses now, not fighting them anymore.
I notice the angular
tilt of my whole body
balanced for the step
it will not take
and my arms are bachelor
passengers in a temporary
suspension of service.
While I dangle there, atom
dinks atom as usual
like tiny atmospheric chancellors
organising the value of air.
The silence janitor
has turned the dial
of noise to zero point four.
The wild shouting
that froze me in this granular
fix is angrier but I cannot
pay attention. The atoms
push back the sound
waves in my favour.
I am so often aware that I know my own weaknesses in the strengths of others. All those poets and artists, yes, and the warm courage of friends. We are so loved, it is all so brief and wonderful. This little poem could be called ‘How I love you’
Let’s take a muscle from my chest
stroke each twitching fibre smooth, stretch
the tight bundles out of our reach
and make baby steps away from each other, spin
a whole life out of separations, the thinning
weight of it tugging in my breast.
Every day my own weakness
is held in the strength of others __
today: Mary Ruefle
The number of moving and meaningful poems about time is frankly overwhelming. Writing my own as it flows, straight from brain to page, is rewarding. It helps me see afresh how far a poem will travel from tumbling out to being ‘finished’. The work of working words, so they are not words but ‘the words’ is as much about what is not put on the page as what is. InkTober is a particular challenge for me because I’m not a daily pages sort of writer. My poems emerge as a way of finding out what I think and feel about a thing. Kathleen Jamie said at a talk last week that for her a poem is finished when there’s nothing else to be changed and it no longer holds her interest, then she knows it’s done because she’s done with it. Then it’s ready for a reader.
Complex animal of time
[I have never understood how to teach]
each reddening apple falls
and falls again into my autumn.
I do not pick it up
but watch the woodlouse family
tunnel in and slim grey slugs
curl around their juicy lips
and sleep. The apple skin
begins to shrink, the flesh
is considering decay when sharp
beaked and boisterous —
a blackbird tick-tocks
the softened fruit, gulps
and goes again and I watch
the apple day after day
until the one-for-sorrow
pulls my gaze away.