Wednesday, January 03, 2007

the pursuit of the white hart*

The kind of poetry (and writing generally) that currently most interests me is the attempt to speak from areas other than the intellect. Note that you can't do this directly, it has to be achieved through various kinds of suggestion, which require that you abandon any idea of overt, linear narrative, and replace it with a kind of mosaic or montage (both the wrong words) of narrative attempting to work at, and to contact, different levels simultaneously. This also requires some understanding from the reader that the direct narrative is being deliberately subverted to this end. A way to achieve it is by, having first located or established the subject, looking for it in different areas. If it is overt or physical, or extraneous, then look for it in yourself - see what is corresponding inside to what is outside, see what that looks like and what words and images are attached to it. See what it feels like, and what words come with those feelings. How deep can you follow it? The deeper you go (into what can become a quite shamanistic, meditative pursuit), the closer the images and words become to dream narratives, as they permutate through successive layers of language and imagery.

The vital thing is to keep the thread intact between the initial impetus and the deeper imagery - if the connection is lost, then the words cease to have any authentic link to outer reality, and the poetry becomes effectively meaningless outside of what is more or less a dream state. It is no good just summoning abstract or surrealist images from your imagination, they MUST be sequentially connected to the surface by the poetic equivalent of a chain of neurons, and able to fire in both directions.

If it's achieved - and some people have done it very well indeed - then the result is a startling interactive narrative of different realities speaking with different voices, and all ultimately decipherable through the presence of this Rosetta Stone of interconnectedness. It can seem very abstruse, and the best poetry of this kind often is, but it is never gratuitously or actually unintelligible, and it represents ultimately some of the greatest accomplishments in the pursuit of poetry and what it really is. Eliot and Joyce are probably the two best known poets to really use these sorts of dream narratives.

*The title 'pursuit of the white hart' refers to the frequent instances in myth of the appearance of a white stag, boar or other creature, announcing the proximity of the 'otherworld', or perhaps the 'unconscious'. Celtic mythology is particularly rich in these references, and I take them to be imagery of exactly the process I'm trying to describe in this piece, though they might have been more literally intelligible to their contemporary composers and listeners.

To be continued/revised.