two books

28 May, 2010

Not much to report at the end of the week, other than that I’ve been following my supervisor’s prescription to get out, see people, have fun, and read. I’ve been really enjoying one of the books she suggested, despite its truly hideous cover (Routledge, sort it out!):

It’s a really good primer and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in finding out more about poetry and how and why it works. Its opening chapter is called ‘Because there is language there is poetry’, and Wainright’s main argument is that all language resonates between the two poles of semantics (ie what it means) and sensuousness (ie our enjoyment of it). Poetry is just one part of the everyday language we all use; it’s not a specially demarcated zone for aesthetes or those in the know, and as such its enjoyment (and its meaning) is potentially open to everyone.

But then in the next chapter, ‘Deliberate space’, he goes on to talk about how poetry is a particularly heightened form of language. I particularly like this quote, drawing the analogy between poetry and prayer that I’ve written a little about before:

A poem is a part of the functioning and the gesturing of the words we use every day, but it is also set aside. Just as a prayer mat is made of fabric found everywhere but, once laid out, marks off a space from the surrounding daily world, so does the shape of the poem organise language into a space for pause and for different attention.

I’m also reading this fascinating book:

which I picked up while looking for something else. David Bohm was a quantum physicist and this book is a collection of essays on the relationship between creativity and science and the arts. It’s the kind of book that is utterly mesmerising on reading but that I’d struggle to write coherently about without going back and making copious notes. And it’s very challenging: I put it down after the first essay (‘Creativity’) asking myself the question, how do I move from the mechanical way I have of thinking/being/writing into a more creative state? Joining up the dots between scientific and artistic endeavour, Bohm defines creativity as ‘a perception of a new basic order that is potentially significant in a broad and rich field’, and goes on to say that

quite generally, in a creative act of perception, one first becomes aware (generally non-verbally) of a new set of relevant differences, and one begins to feel out or otherwise to note a new set of similarities, which do not come merely from past knowledge, either in the same field or in a different field. This leads to a new order, which then gives rise to a hierarchy of new orders, that constitutes a set of new kinds of structure. The whole process tends to form harmonious and unified totalities, felt to be beautiful, as well as capable of moving those who understand them in a profoundly stirring way.

I was thinking about differences and similarities (Bohm explains their importance to discovery earlier on in the chapter) and wondering how they connect up to poetry; perhaps metaphor is at the heart of this, highlighting in more or less obvious ways the difference as well as the similarity between the two things it brings together. And as we established in our Poetics seminar in the first term, poetry basically is metaphor.

Still no writing, though of course now I’m not supposed to be writing. But I’m feeling connections forming. And hopefully it’s all going on at a non-verbal level somewhere…

This post brought to you by the patience of friends, hilarious children, good books and lazy mornings.

One Response to “two books”

  1. Nancy Mattson said

    Many years ago in Toronto I heard Northrop Frye talk about two poetic poles — “babble” and “doodle” — how a poem sounds and what it looks like on the page. At the extreme end of babble, meaning disappears into pure sound; at the doodle extremity, meaning becomes pure visual pattern.
    Another rope to add to the double-dutch of musing on poetic skipping…

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