A Critical Reflective Essay on Poetic Expression
A personal exploration into the realms of poetry through the use of expressive imagery, dating back to the dawn of time and creeping up to date with modern computer graphics. Focusing on the appearance of each piece as well as the story told within and embracing a wide source of inspiration, discovering an ever increasing range of writers and artists who have produced some elaborate and stunning work.
Poetry is a theme which had been absolutely alien to me prior to enrolling upon the Creative Writing Course. My knowledge was limited to The Raven, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Vogon Poetry, and these examples I was only exposed to through other interests. (Namely movies, music and comedy) I was unsure what to expect as Lydia Towsey (Chair/Compere WORD! www.wordpoetry.eu)1 took our class during the first year. During these evenings I was thrown into a confusing yet beautiful world of poetry. With its strict rules of rhymes and stances, counting consonants or lines, style structure, form and prose all of which can be thrown out of the window and disregarded. It would appear that in poetry rules are sometimes made to be broken.
Getting it wrong:
I embraced this new found path with enthusiasm, yet my subject matter was too metaphysical, I took inspiration from my Pagan background and my writing explored subjects relating to the supernatural, esoteric and theoretical. They did not tell a story they posed questions and were just not specific. A concept, at the time, I just failed to understand. My ideas were shelved, but not totally dismissed.
A journey of rediscovery:
Wednesday 1st October 2014, upon this evening I attended ‘A Different World – Poetry Workshop’ held at The Curve and hosted by Anita Sivakumaran.2
An insightful and inspirational event, which once again threw open the realm of poetry for me to gaze upon with delight and wonder. Introducing an unusual twist, these came in the form of ‘Technicians of the Sacred: A range of poetries from Africa, America, Europe & Asia, an anthology by Jerome Rothenberg3 and Octavio Paz.4 Both of which have remained strong influences throughout the creation of my portfolio and changed the direction of my poetry. I was inspired by the use of illustrations and design to create a story, with images and words, words forming images and pictorial portrayal of poetic works.
Introducing ‘Concrete & Abstract (or Abstract & Concrete)’
‘Open to Interpretation’ was written / drawn during the ‘A Different World – Poetry Workshop’ held at The Curve and hosted by Anita Sivakumaran. Exploring poetry from around the world and throughout time as portrayed by various cultures, introducing me to ‘Technicians of the Sacred’ for the second time in as many weeks.
Firstly in Nick Cave’s ‘20,000 Days on Earth’ in an interview, Nick Cave remarks on Technicians of the Sacred: “I read an enormous amount of poetry, and “Technicians of the Sacred” has been hugely influential. The primitive poetry in general and the way it’s presented in that book is pretty extraordinary. After I’ve gotten sick of reading modern poetry, I just open that up, and there’s just something immediate about it and visceral and shockingly erotic that gives a license and a context to go to other places. I think that songwriting is much more conservative than poetry. Themes dealt with in poetry seem to be much more audacious, so I get a lot of inspiration from that.” 5
I found this synchronicity hard to ignore and when this book entered my life I was intrigued to learn more discovering a whole new style of poetry and a major source of inspiration. ‘Open to Interpretation’ was hand drawn remains unchanged, scanned directly from the notebook, it is a very significant poem for two reasons, firstly it marks my re-introduction into the realm of poetry and secondly the message itself relates to my own personal spiritual journey. Therefore I have deliberately not included the translation in this essay, leaving the poem quite literally open to interpretation for the reader to explore the symbols and translate these as they desire.
These symbols illustrate the rebus principle6, where words and syllables are represented by pictures of objects and by images whose names are similar to the word or syllable to be expressed. A simple explanation of this rebus principle can be forming words from pictures:
BEE + LEAF = BELIEF
SEA + SUN = SEASON
This is un-doubtfully one of the oldest forms of communication used to tell a story and can be seen in ‘Song of the dead, relating the origin of bitterness’ (from Asia) explored in ‘Technicians of the Sacred’.
‘The Dream’ and ‘The Secret’ are two poems I have chosen to include from the classes in the first year ran by Lydia Towsey, the latter with some recent modifications. ‘The Dream’ was created through a series of exercises given in class, from first making a list of ten abstract concepts, choosing one to focus on then applying the five physical senses to the chosen conception, therefore applying a concrete notion to an abstract concept, which also gave me the working title for my portfolio.
‘The Secret’ was recently altered, after the discovery of an interesting online article on ‘Rewriting Books Through Redacted Text’ (By Kathleen Massara)7 This article looked at the work of the artist known as ‘someguy’8 and Jonathan Safran Foer’s cut-out, remixed novel, ‘Tree of Codes’9. Both of which took existing work and heavily edited it to create new pieces work from the remaining words. Considering the theme of ‘The Secret’ I choose to blank out words to invite the reader to participate in my work by interjecting their own words into the space provided. There is no right or wrong way to read this, the idea is to develop a relationship with my reader by allowing them their own creative input into this piece.
As Stephen King once said: “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft 10
‘Crow Haiku’ A Haiku11 is a Japanese poem, which dates from around the 9th century. They consist of three lines, the first and last line contains 5 moras and the middle line has 7 moras (In English syllables are used as moras). From the development of my earlier piece ‘The Dream’ I felt inspired to look into various forms of communication which related to the physical senses and for the ‘Crow Haiku’ I reinterpreted it into sight sound and touch, recreating the Haiku from Words (sight) to Morse code12 (sound) and Braille (touch)13. The visual effect of just casually glancing at a series of dots or dashes and trusting that these patterns also say what is written, almost leads the reader to overlook these translations. We skim over the dots, because we cannot visually translate them into words, as I developed this concept, I became aware just how much we take words for granted and how beautiful they may appear in a different form of communication.
‘SSDD’ another form of communication, the modern abbreviation and most commonly used in text / email / social networks, such as LOL, LMAO, BRB, GTG, IMO and so forth.14 Phrases have become reduced to a series of letters and SSDD simply stands for ‘Same Shit Different Day’. This abbreviation also features in the Stephen King novel / film ‘Dream-catcher’15. My poem takes the reader on a bus journey with me, just a mundane daily routine, with a sparkle of adventure added to it. The nonsense of the surreal day dream realm plunges the reader into my vivid imagination. Inspired by the works of Dr Seuss16 and the tremendous Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll17 for the use of invented words to create bizarre illusions of a make believe world. All presented in the appearance of a newspaper clipping to keep with the theme of the poem, adopting modern use of graphic design to illustrate my work in such a way that it’s presentation becomes part of the written work. SSDD also drew inspiration from a stunning painting by the artist Chiara Bautista18
As I became more fascinated with the works of Octavio Paz I developed an interest in the astounding ‘House of Leaves’ By Mark Z. Danielewski.19 Both Octavio Paz and Mark Z. Danielewski have used layout of text in various different ways to express their work.
With this in mind, I developed a series of different styles to present my poems ‘Mirrored Verse’, ‘Crossing Paths’ and ‘Music & Dance’ to merge poems and create a visual design with the words.
‘Mirrored Verse’ itself is a Handfasting20 (Pagan Wedding) blessing I wrote, inverted, reversed, flipped and mirrored. Words change when you look at them differently, live becomes evil when backwards. The appearance looks alien as we are so used to reading letters in a certain format, though other cultures may read back to front or up and down the page. However English letters appear to loose meaning when presented in another direction, In a Handfasting, the four elements/directions are traditionally honoured, which inspired me to present the blessing in the same way, in four different directions and although they may look bizarre the words and therefore the meaning still remain the same. I was personally impressed by a poem entitled ‘Lost Generation’ by Jonathan Reed21, a palindrome, read normally this poem gave a very bleak view of the world, yet when read in reverse, it gives the reader hope and changes the whole meaning of the work.
‘Crossing Paths’ Consists of two poems (Feathered Family and Seasonal Connection) written and inspired by my home, reflecting my thoughts and feelings surrounding where I live and the community around me. I have taken the poems apart, twisted them around and rearranged their format, which echoes how I felt by changing my life in such a way. The merged poems influence the reader to participate in the work, they need to physically turn the page, to mentally piece together the puzzle and see the story hidden within. By turning the text to the side, I saw a pattern forming and the idea to change the background black, the text green transformed the work into an image which resembled the falling, or raining text code used in the film ‘The Matrix’22 (sample on Page 29) an ironic twist considering the theme of the work is connected to living with nature, yet the layout and style embraces technology.
‘Music & Dance’ Two poems, based on two very different styles of genre, exploring ballet and jazz, presented in such a way that each poem may be read individually, flowing down the page, or across, connecting the two pieces of work into one and creating a whole new tale from both themes. The layout on the page creates a beautiful twisting path between the poems, inviting the reader to cross over this path. Using a performance of Swan Lake23 and the recent 2014 film Whiplash24 as inspiration, this piece crosses time as well as genre.
Whilst researching performance poetry and listening to John Hegley, John Cooper Clarke, Rob Gee, Ministry of the Mundane by Project Adorno on YouTube, I came to the conclusion that my work cannot be performed, that it is more visual, creating art from words. I also stumbled across performance artist Marina Abramović, my latest piece of work ‘6 Hours’ is based on her 1974 performance piece entitled ‘Rhythm 0’25 Art may be performed and poetry may be artistic, inspiration comes in various disguises, from bus routes to ducks, they have all found a place in my work. I realise that my first attempts at poetry were wrong and I began this essay by admitting this error, shared with you my change of direction and progression, how I developed each piece and where I found my muse. Yet this couldn’t have happened without first making mistakes, this brings me to the final piece. ‘Content’ (the accidental poem) put simply this is the Content page from my first failed attempt, however it tells a story in itself, so remains here to remind me, and the reader, that there really are no mistakes, just a journey of transformation.
In some way the content remind me of the artist Richard Serra26, who created a list of verbs to explore in his artwork, for it resembled a list and when read down the page suggests a list of events.
What about the Caps?
You may have noticed a distinct lack of capital letters, punctuation, question marks, full stops etc… this is a deliberate theme in my work and a trait prompted by – No Edits by Alex Elle27 (via alexandraelle) a beautiful yet simple poem which adheres to no rules.
Social media has transformed the way we communicate in recent years, creating a new platform for anyone to share and display their work with ease. Because of Tumblr, I discovered ‘Wreck this Journal’28 and on Twitter, poems or even whole stories maybe told within 140 characters, developing a new style of work contained in Tweets.The Journey Continues:
Using my poems, my ‘Wreck this Journal’ and my love for both photography and graphic design, I can see this collection I have presented morphing further into an artistic display. (Sample of this progression on Page 30) However, this is still work in progress and a separate project continuing from this portfolio, so my journey continues by putting the ‘Creative’ into Creative Writing.
- Lydia Towsey
Poetry. Art. Performance. Change.
Chair/Compere WORD! www.wordpoetry.eu
- Anita Sivakumaran http://www.transculturalwriting.com/Grassroutes/content/Anita_Sivakumaran.htm
3. Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania by Jerome Rothenberg (editor) since its first publication in 1968, Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred has educated a generation of poets, artists, and readers to the multiple faces and possibilities of poetry throughout the world. Hailed by Robert Creeley as “both a deeply useful work book and an unequivocal delight,” and by the Los Angeles Times Book Review as one of the hundred most recommended American books of the last thirty-five years, it appears here in a revised and expanded version several years in the making. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/405082.Technicians_of_the_Sacred
Image included in Influences and Inspiration, Reference – 3
Paperback: 672 pages
Publisher: University of California Press; 2nd Revised edition (1 July 1992)
- Octavio Paz Lozano March 31, 1914 – April 19, 1998) was a Mexican poet-diplomat and writer. For his body of work, he was awarded the 1981 Miguel de Cervantes Prize, the 1982 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and the 1990 Nobel Prize in Literature. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octavio_Paz
Conjunctions & Disjunctions Paperback – 25 Apr 1991
by Octavio Paz (Author), Helen Lane (Translator)
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Import; New edition edition (25 April 1991)
Collected Poems, 1957-87 Hardcover – 22 Sep 1988
by Octavio Paz (Author), Eliot Weinberger (Editor)
Hardcover: 686 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press Ltd (22 Sept. 1988)
- Wall Street Journal article ‘Nick Cave, Star of ‘20,000 Days on Earth,’ on Poets, Bandmates and Loneliness’ by By Barbara Chai http://www.wsj.com/articles/nick-cave-star-of-20-000-days-on-earth-on-poets-bandmates-and-loneliness-1410828058
20,000 Days on Earth http://www.20000daysonearth.com/
20,000 Days on Earth (2014)
97 min – Documentary | Drama | Music – 18 November 2014 (USA)
Writer and musician Nick Cave marks his 20,000th day on the planet Earth.
Directors: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard
Writers: Nick Cave, Iain Forsyth
Stars: Nick Cave, Susie Bick, Warren Ellis
- Rebus principle representation of a word or syllable by a picture of an object the name of which resembles in sound the represented word or syllable. Several rebuses may be combined-in a single device or successively-to make a phrase or sentence. Literary rebuses use letters, numbers, musical notes, or specially placed words to make sentences. Complex rebuses combine pictures and letters. Rebuses may convey direct meanings, especially to inform or instruct illiterate people; or they may deliberately conceal meanings, to inform only the initiated or to puzzle and amuse. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rebus+principle
Image included in Influences and Inspiration, Reference-8
- Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer, Tree of Codes is a haunting new story by best-selling American writer, Jonathan Safran Foer. With a different die-cut on every page, Tree of Codes explores previously unchartered literary territory. Initially deemed impossible to make, the book is a first — as much a sculptural object as it is a work of masterful storytelling. Tree of Codes is the story of an enormous last day of life — as one character’s life is chased to extinction, Foer multi-layers the story with immense, anxious, at times disorientating imagery, crossing both a sense of time and place, making the story of one person’s last day everyone’s story. Inspired to exhume a new story from an existing text, Jonathan Safran Foer has taken his “favorite” book, The Street of Crocodiles by Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schulz, and used it as a canvas, cutting into and out of the pages, to arrive at an original new story told in Jonathan Safran Foer’s own acclaimed voice. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9583799-tree-of-codes
Image included in Influences and Inspiration, Reference – 9
Paperback: 140 pages
Publisher: Visual Editions Ltd; First Edition (13 Nov. 2010)
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery.
Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, “On Writing” will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10569.On_Writing
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books (June 25, 2002)
- Morse code is a method of transmitting text information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment. The International Morse Code http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morse_code
Image included in Influences and Inspiration, Reference – 12
- The raised dot system now known as ‘braille’ was pioneered by a young Frenchman called Louis Braille. http://www.rnib.org.uk/braille-and-other-tactile-codes-portal-braille-past-present-and-future/invention-braille
Image included in Influences and Inspiration, Reference – 13
- Dreamcatcher (2001) is a science fiction novel written by Stephen King. It was adapted into a 2003 movie of the same name. The book, written in cursive, helped the author recuperate from a 1999 car accident, and was completed in half a year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamcatcher_%28novel%29
Mass Market Paperback: 896 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books (December 1, 2001)
134 min – Drama | Horror | Sci-Fi – 21 March 2003 (USA)
Friends on a camping trip discover that the town they’re vacationing in is being plagued in an unusual fashion by parasitic aliens from outer space.
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Writers: Stephen King (novel), William Goldman (screenplay)
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee
- JABBERWOCKY Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)
Hardcover: 112 pages
Publisher: Merrell Publishers Ltd; 1st Thus edition (20 Mar. 2006)
Image included in Influences and Inspiration, Reference – 18
- House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command.
Image included in Influences and Inspiration, Reference – 19
House Of Leaves Paperback – 6 Jul 2000
by Mark Z Danielewski (Author)
Paperback: 736 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (6 July 2000)
Full Poem included in Influences and Inspiration – Reference – 21
- The Matrix https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZdpA3p9ZMY
The Matrix (1999)
136 min – Action | Sci-Fi – 31 March 1999 (USA)
A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.
Directors: Andy Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers) ,
Lana Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers)
Writers: Andy Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers) ,
Lana Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers)
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
- Swan Lake is a ballet composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875–76. The scenario, initially in two acts, was fashioned from Russian folk tales and tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swan_Lake
- Whiplash (2014) A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
107 min – Drama | Music – 16 January 2015 (UK)
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist
- Marina Abramovic on Rhythm 0 (1974) https://vimeo.com/71952791
- Serra wrote his now famous “Verb List,” which comprises more than one hundred different processes that could be done to or with a given material. “Verb List” was published in 1972 in the book The New Avant-Garde: Issues for the Art of the Seventies. https://seaberg.wikispaces.com/Richard+Serra+Verb+List
Full Poem included in Influences and Inspiration – Reference – 27
Image included in Influences and Inspiration, Reference – 28