my version

I was having a conversation about the Vietnam War this morning and I was told how, out of all the stories one heard of the atrocities, you would know which ones rang true because those stories would contain very little emotion on the part of the narrator. Another way you could tell they were real would be from the lack of Hollywood endings, of dramatic rescue missions and of redemption in the face of evil. In reality, very little of that kind of stuff actually happens; bombs are dropped, soldiers fight, civilians get caught up in the fighting, people die, soldiers come back from the war shellshocked and unable to fit back into society, other victims are forgotten; so Life goes on.

I wrote my first pamphlet during a very traumatic event in my life and after it was finished, I looked back on it and observed how lacking in emotion it was. I thought this was because fundamentally, deep down I must be a very un-feeling person but after hearing about these stories from the Vietnam War I realised I had disassociated myself from the situation just in order to survive it. It helped me to understand the particular way I recorded my version of the trauma. And above all I had highlighted how in fact, Life just does keep going in its quiet way.

Saying that the poet was lacking in emotion whilst writing the pamphlet is not quite true however; yes, the poet was emotionally distant all the way through – to protect herself and those around her – until the last line of the last poem. That is where the breath catches and the reader must take it in very slowly, as the line is in fact, written backwards. This has the effect of making the reader stop and take stock of the whole sequence. It is at this point, when everything is said and done, the sequence is almost finished and we’re asked in the very last act to move physically backwards along the line, that a small drop of sadness is allowed to appear, a small chink in the armour of the trauma is allowed to open.

And it is at this place, I invariably start to cry. It is almost as if re-reading the moments I spent with my brother before he died are as much trauma as the real event itself and to draw again and again to a close by reading slowly back along the last line of the pamphlet is always the saddest thing. The poem sequence has a life of its own, it is an entity its own right; it has the power to evoke emotion through its lack of emotion, it has the force to deliver a certain kind of quiet promise– and even though life does go on and there are no Hollywood endings to stories such as this, at the end of the day, this particular story is undoubtedly and can be nothing but, real.

“I feel like I’m getting more anonymous,” ~ Alice Oswald

Been slinking away from world again slinking back to bushes undergrowth trying to imagine life without electronics without screens without invisible connections imagine myself Virginia Woolf Keats Alice Oswald sitting next to flower borders at Kew underneath a tree a quill listening to a nightingale in a cold shed ink pen in hand screwed up papers thrown in corners I often suffer from information overload when caught in the net too many things rolling around electronic overdose it’s all too much I turn off the machine go outside you can write better poetry when you are disconnected from electronic stuff people make money from offering retreats in far-flung isolated places no internet they’ve got the right idea people want it the work of MacGillivray her performance pieces listen to her music read her poetry a woman totally rooted in real-worlds totally connected to surroundings to myths stories to music of witch-crafting to memory to history not part of mechanical publishing industries not got caught up in not connected to but howling slinking away to some bush create a métier all her own too easy to get embroiled in flashy outwardmoving to be retracting inwards become anonymous

word-weaving

Su Hui a poet and textile maker, lived in the kingdom of Former Qin (351-394 b.c.e.) in China. She invented a form of poetry called huiwen, a type of text that can be read in thousands of different ways. The poem in which this technique was first seen was produced as a textile piece. This was described in contemporary sources as shuttle-woven on brocade, meant to be read in a circle and consisting of 112 or else 840 characters. By the Tang period, the following story about the poem was current:

Dou Tao of Qinzhou was exiled to the desert, away from his wife Su Hui. Upon departure from Su Hui, Dou swore that he would not marry another person. However, as soon as he arrived in the desert region, he married someone. Su Hui composed a circular poem, wove it into a piece of brocade, and sent it to him.

In the Ming Dynasty the poem became popular and scholars discovered 7,940 ways to read it. The poem is in the form of a twenty-nine by twenty-nine character grid, and can be read forward or backwards, horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, as well as within its color-coded grids. Another source, naming the poem as Xuanji Tu (Star Gauge or Picture of the Turning Sphere), claims that the grid as a whole was a palindromic poem comprehensible only to Dou (which would explain why none of the Tang sources reprinted it), and that when he read it, he left his desert wife and returned to Su Hui.

from here.

obscurity

“Fame,’ he said, ‘is like […] a braided coat, which hampers the limbs; a jacket of silver which curbs the heart; a painted shield which covers a scarecrow,’ etc, etc. The pith of his phrases was that while fame impedes and constricts, obscurity wraps about a man like a mist; obscurity is dark, ample and free; obscurity lets the mind take its way unimpeded. Over the obscure man is poured the merciful suffusion of darkness. None knows where he goes or comes. He may seek the truth and speak it; he alone is free; he alone is truthful; he alone is at peace..” ― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

fingers, mouth, ears, brain, typewriter, computer, keypad etc.

Been playing around with the voice to text feature and it is very strange how all of the sudden writing becomes a thing that happens from brain–to–mouth. It is no longer from brain–to–fingertips as I have been so used to doing in the past. I remember reading a piece by Ted Hughes about how peoples’ brains are changed according to the way they write and the introduction of the computer profoundly changed the way people started composing prose pieces. Hughes recounts that all of a sudden, the pieces he was reading became longer and full of unnecessary padding. Hughes tells us that writing with a pen or even typewriter forces our brains to think in different ways; in more succinct ways and I believe this totally because I grew up without using a keyboard until I was about 20 years old. It was only then, when I tentatively started using my fingers to type rather than a pen to write with that I started to edit my work obsessively – trying to find absolute perfection in whatever I wrote. Before that, I expressed myself through pen and paper only and I remember being more contented with what came out in the first draft.

About two years ago, I bought myself an old typewriter, a ‘vintage’ typewriter I should say, from a lovely woman in Geneva. She told me it was the same type of machine that Ernest Hemingway used to write his books whilst travelling on the Orient Express. I thought it would be nostalgic to use a typewriter; I loved the idea of it but I didn’t plan on the huge re–wiring that my brain circuitry had to make in order to be able to compose the simplest of texts. It seemed that my brain had forgotten how to write anything in one edit, without the option of going back and reviewing my work as I went along. It was a serious blow to my creative powers, not to mention the frustration of typos. I take my hat off to all the thousands of writers pre–computer age, who composed their books, poetry, journalism and other pieces entirely on typewriters.

Nowadays, we have the luxury of continuous editing, spell–checking and online dictionaries, thesaurus and other tools, yet we have lost so much, merely because of the fact that every single piece we write can be edited 1000 times. To be honest, I love the purity and excitement of writing a piece once only (or maybe twice at a push) and sending that out into the world as it is. It is somehow like a rawer version of myself; a more honest version and something I would like to stay true to if I can, especially in the case of poetry, which I can spend hours and hours editing over and over again (see Maggie O’Sullivan’s poetry collections, which have been published as original typewriter copy).

Saying that, this blog post has been written without using my hands at all. I spoke into the computer and the computer wrote the text for me like magic. This has sent my brain into yet another state of confusion but the words do seem to be flowing. Unfortunately, I find myself struggling to think of the more complicated words I want to use; something that maybe my fingers have been used to helping me with, who knows. The greatest advantage of using this method to compose text however, is that my eyes are continuously focused on the far mountains, which I can see out of my window and that the sun has just started to illuminate.

I think that in the future people will look back at keyboards and see them as something so terribly old-fashioned, by then everyone will be using brain–to–mouth–to–machine or even brain–to–machine methods to write text. Perhaps the style of writing will have changed too. Just think, we will no longer need keyboard shortcuts or voice–to–text applications. Perhaps we will see the computer as more than just a keyboard and a screen; perhaps we will start having real relationships with them, just like – and I quote again – the movie Her.

Unfortunately, I could go on talking all day and the computer will write for me whatever comes out of my mouth. This is a dangerous thing. For the task of composing poetry, which (for me) must look good and correct on the page, I know I will have to resort back to the keypad but for the moment, what fun I’m having with my little machine.

Hey is weather title goes

Hello well as you know this is all a bit difficult but it will be better soon yes that’s better well hello hello machine. I’m talking into a machine and the machine is writing the words for me! It even recognises an exclamation mark hah if you say it quickly then you get an ! If you say it slowly then you get an exclamation mark woo hoo. It’s strange to talk and have machine type the words out for you, it seems as if I have become one step closer to be coming Samantha in the film Her. Italic her no that doesn’t work. I like it that there are some mistakes just like a machine should do just like humans should do. I make more mistakes then this computer apparently, huh yes I make more mistakes for sure. I think I have to sit down and memorise the words for the punctuation the codewords that is–/:;,”” parentheses brackets closed Open:-) winking face some things work some things don’t, but that’s okay. Look forward to my first machine made delete written poems soon!:-)

PS Reading this back to myself I realise that’s it really isn’t acceptable for machines to make mistakes nowadays I mean they run really important things like at traffic control and finances and heart rate monitors another stuff so let it be just me who makes the mistakes from now on. I feel better with that.