Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sealed Tombs

Breathe no moisture,
Are bone dry to the touch,

Have no dust
suspended in their corridors,

No heat, nor cool,
No shade, no bright sunlight,

No footfall to be heard,
No echo,

Do not interrogate the darkness
or finger the flesh,

Without conscience

they walk our worst dreams,
Sleep by day,

and by night no spectres
rattle the bones,

But, when their guts are revealed,
gasp their curses.

© Martin Porter 2006

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lunch in Marco's Kitchen - Working to a recipe?

Lunch in Marco’s kitchen with the artists and fine food

In Marco’s kitchen
Dali’s Christ of St John stares down
From the wooden walls.
The wood fired stove has been burning
All morning
Mixing the sounds of sparks and effervescent knots
With the torrential rain.

The damp smell mixes
With the scent of chopped garlic cloves
Not crushed,
Like some porcini mushroom dish.

As Lina plunges pasta into her
History browned, oil encrusted pot
Marco grasps a fist of octopus
To toss with wilted spinach,
Nettles and plum toms from his back yard,
And anchovy in spiteful superheated oil. This is a
Jackson Pollack of a dish,

Or, more like, Warhol’s Marilyns,
Elegant, always the same
Never identical.
Marco hides his aproned pasta paunch
Behind the shadows of the fire, and

Lina drains spaghetti, throws it on the pan
And tips it onto three plain terracotta plates.
This is lunch
In Marco’s kitchen, with Lina
And fine food.

© Martin Porter 2007

Can a document like a scientific paper, a guide to filling a form or a recipe be converted into a poem? That was the workshop challenge that eventually created "Lunch in Marco's kitchen...". The poem was written well after the workshop and is based on an imaginary recipe that actually works, much to my surprise.

To fix the recipe into a poem, I have tried to place it in a cultural location, hence the references to the artists. As for the location in time and space, Marco's kitchen is explicit enough - it could be Italy, it could be the US or Australia - and lunch time is about as precise as the poem needs. The important feature I wanted to experess is the casual but high quality of living that results in a satisfied Marco.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Innominate Group

I will be visiting the innominate poetry group in Jersey on Friday October 28th. This is an exciting event for me and I am looking forward to it.

I will be reading "Crepuscle with Nellie", published on the Take Flight Whangarei website.

Work from other members of this group, including Simon Crowcroft, Juliette Hart, Alan Jones, Judy Mantle, Nicky Mesch, Linda Rose Parkes, Alex Rice and Colin Scott can be found in the "Wavelengths" anthology published earlier this year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Odesseus spoke of righteousness and Odesseus won
And Astyanax dropped to Earth, poor Hector’s broken son,
Falling from the highest battlements of Troy…

… and I saw a single blazing arm, a shoulder, half a head with matted hair,
Descending, leaving a trail of fatty smoke suspended in the air,
Shining, lightly tinged with sweat in the morning light.
As if deserted by its owner, it had taken flight
or had been flung from the high towers like that poor boy.

© Martin Porter 2002

Fall is loosely based around the events of 11th September 2001 and its contrast to the fall of Troy as perceived in Euripides' "Trojan Women" (Τρῳάδες). The correlation of the two events links the interpretation of acts of terror from two ages, which we often think of as being very different, but which are perhaps more similar than we wish.

Friday, September 2, 2011

St Francis and the Birds - Notes

St Francis and the Birds is based on the painting of the same name to be found in the Tate collection. The painting is stylised and very Stanley Spencer'ish.

The feature I remember first noticing about the painting is the use of colour, which seems to get lost on the internet but often appears vibrant and challenging in print. I have tried to capture that light in the poem. As I looked more closely, the strangeness of the painting became more interesting to me. The saint appears more as a tramp or old man, dressed in slippers and a dressing gown, striding down a road and being followed not by disciples or monks, but by a variety of birds, who do not seem in the least bit disturbed by him. This is in striking contrast to the remaining people, a boy and a woman, who both seem very disturbed indeed.

To further add to my fascination, the painting of the hands is odd. They seem to take an important place in the painting, hanging down from the boy and bent out of position, or grasping and shielding the eyes of the woman, or flat palmed and on the ends of arms in an exagerated marching action in the case of the saint.

The final aspect that I have tried to grasp is the sensation of space and time. Space and time, for me, is very important in a poem, fixing it into a four dimensional location, and this time the location came from research. (Strangely enough, I once walked through Cookham on one of the hottest summer days I can remember, totally ignorant of the Spencer connection.) The other aspect to the location is the clearly defined pantiled house and tree in the background which, I have read, places the saint between Fernlea and The Nest in Cookham. I have not been back yet, but I hope to check this one day.

Writing the poem was a quick affair, and this shows. It is not a highly polished work, and tries to reflect some of that carefully crafted innocence that Spenser shows in his later work. It works using some simple techniques - the seperation of concepts into stanzas and the seperation of ideas into lines. The stanzas reflect location and the birds, location and the people and finally location and the spiritual (if I may use such an abstract word).

The seperation of ideas can be illustrated in stanza 2 for example. Location and location show in lines 10 and 11, fixing the location in space and providing two poles which will be reflected in later lines. The action of the principal in line 12 and apparel in line 13 pivots the poem around St Francis. Lines 14 and 15 reflect the location defined in lines 10 and 11, but also fix two more poles in place, male and female, youth and adult. The stanza finishes with a symbolic gesture and a pun in line 16, an action in line 17 and an object in line 18.

Why start with a location in this stanza? Because the previous stanza ends with a movement to that precise location with the description of the pantiles. I also liked the assonance in Fan-tail and Fernlea. Why introduce the flowers in line 18? It draws attention to the hands, the major symbol in the next stanza.

There are many other features to look out for in this poem, but many of them fell out naturally rather than being inserted or sculpted into place. The painting speaks for itself, and that's what the poem should do. Simple language, simple description but great meaning.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

St Francis and the Birds

Stanley Spencer

The birds look skyward
To the coming Messiah.
The chickens chatter,
Geese gaze,
Fan-tail pigeons
On the pantiles.

Between ‘Fernlea’
And ‘The Nest’
Strides the saint
In dressing-gown habit.
Boy ahead.
Woman behind,
Eyes shielded from the divine sun
By an upraised arm
And daisy bouquet.

And the hands.
The hands turned
Both to the Son
And to the birds.
The pantiles gleam
On this summer day.
The slippered saint reaches,
On tip-toe,
To his Maker.

© Martin Porter 1998

St Francis and the Birds is based on a painting by Stanley Spencer held in the Tate gallery. The painting is, simply put, superb and was rejected by the Royal Academy in 1935. I have tried to keep the poem simple to reflect Spencer's style.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reading at the Thirsty Dog, Auckland

Poetry Live has regular performances and open mike at theThirsty Dog on the K. Road in Auckland. Tuesday 30th August was the launch of the 4th collection of poetry read at Poetry live.

I read two poems, "Amelia" which is published in Live Lines 4 and "Pasifika Queen Mab".

Monday, August 22, 2011

Individuation / Assimilation

>Language>Place Blog Carnival edition #9: individuation/assimilation features the blog entry Pasifica Queen Mab as one of the exhibits. I have found great delight in exhibits in the various blog carnivals - if you have not visited one before, take the chance when you can.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Live Lines IV launch

Live Lines IV is off to the printers and Poetry Live are organising the launch, which will be on August 30th at Poetry Live at the Thirsty Dog, K Road, Auckland.

"Amelia" will be published in Live Lines IV.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Heat and Sound - Development of a Poem

Heat and Sound was written over a long period with several revisions. I put the following together for a fellow writer to show how the poem developed from the original draft to the piece as it currently exists.


I tend to agree with the comment that poems are not finished, they are abandoned, so this may not be the last ever version, but that is not the intention of this entry.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Heat and Sound

This is a simple poem, but was not simple to write. It has gone through several revisions to get to this point.
The original was written after a visit to Piha beach near Auckland, New Zealand.

Heat and Sound
Piha, 30th December 2005

The only movement is a line of surf
Beyond the heat,
Beneath the looming cliffs.

The sand, furnaced beneath my feet,
Black, or rather, chocolate brown,
Glints as every facet
Captures rays of scorching Sun.

Flame red pohutukawa
Shade the dunes, in pools of cool
Where I sit, exhausted,
Under their domes,

To the sound of sea over the beach
Dragging on each dislodged grain.

© Martin Porter 2006

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The night vodka got into the compost

The poem "The night vodka got into the compost" has been published on a free broadsheet available through the Take Flight Writing in Whangarei blog and on the Take Flight blog.

The broadsheet can also be downloaded from here.

The poem is largely a found poem, moulded around phrases or sentences found in the diaries of Franz Kafka 1910 - 1923.

Monday, June 27, 2011

unwritten language / unnamed places

>Language>Place Blog Carnival edition #7: unwritten language / unnamed places features the blog entry Place, Maps, Language as one of the exhibits. Please visit the carnival and browse the exhibits - they are worth every minute you spend there.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Place, Maps, Language

A map is its own language. Unspoken, it still manages to describe place, location and even scenery, often with an astonishing simplicity, but sometimes with a subtlety that can be quite breathtaking. A bright red line that illustrates a tarmac road, or a thin blue line meandering through a green background may describe a stream percolating through peaty watermeadows. Interestingly, a map with its two dimensional syntax has a sophistication that is denied writing along one dimensional lines. It is here that poetry often challenges the dimensional boundary with precise placement of words on a page. Just as I might spend considerable time appreciating the structure of a poem, so I have spent hours in front of a hostel fire with a pot of tea reading a map to discover its secrets.

1:25000 attempts to capture the mystery of map reading. It starts with a relatively ordinary line structure, with the usual vocabulary and punctuation, but as it explores the landscape it drifts away from a simple syntax towards a looser style that relies on placement, symmetry and wonderment.


Only slightly lost, we find the paper
Folded in an inside pocket. We are there,
Somewhere, one to twenty-five thousand,
A mote of mobile imagining.

And a trickle of blue splits the landscape.

In the orange skein
We untangle a rolling surface pressed
Flat on the map, but filled with pebble,
Outcrop, blades of grass.
On close scrutiny of the stylised code
A shrubby plantation catches the eye
With its little lollipop trees
Springing from the rough green hummocks
Of a rough green pasture.

And a trickle of blue splits the paper.

On the ground
We find no deep black names.
No red carpets are laid on our tracks.
Hidden from the ink are the implicit sheep,
The thin, abstracted cry of a curlew’s mate,
The wide airy volume of the space
The loneliness
The unprintable emptiness of being there

© Martin Porter 1999

Shell is a piece written to explore the difference between the mechanisms (the map, the googling and the met report) we use to describe the world and the world itself. In some ways it shares the same properties as 1:25000, with a growing disorder in the punctuation, but in "shell" the contrast between the virtual and the visceral is further examined by the use of upper case characters. The only "reality" in the poem is the Single Fragment of Shell, all the other references are just exactly that, someone elses experiences referred forward.


her father unfolded the concertina
map, laying it in dunes on the table
she googled it, name in box, click
of a button, eyes on the screen
and zoomed in to see

every grain of sand,
a hermit crab caught, mid-

the met report told them it was
comfortable yesterday
comfortable today and
it will be…

i gently rest my finger on the sand,
raise it to my face, observe
the Single Fragment of Shell adhered
and rub it, abrasively, across my open palm

© Martin Porter 2010

As an aside, but nevertheless important to note, is the play with the written language in 1:25000. I do not know how you read that particular string of characters, but the one to twenty-five thousand in the body of the poem probably reads the same, although the string of characters is very different.

1:25000 won 2nd prize in the Jersey Evening Post writing competition 1999
shell was published in the 52/250 blog  18 March 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011


The launch of Wavelengths, an anthology by writers from the Channel Islands, took place on Friday, 10th June at 18.00-20.00 at the Jersey Museum. It is published by Holland House Editions and is available from the Societe Jersiaise and the Jersey Museum.

Wavelengths contains two of my poems: "My Lover is a Rainstorm" and "a dripping tap", both featured on this blog.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Language and Place on the Edge Blog Carnival

The sixth Language and Place blog carnival is now online, with the theme Language and Place on the Edge. One of the links follows the Take Flight Writing in Whangarei exhibit, which includes a version of The Tree at the End of the World.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Tree at the End of the World

The Tree at the Edge of the World is based on an image I took near Cape Reinga in New Zealand.

This poem is also published on the Take Flight Writing in Whangarei "Language and Place on the Edge" feature.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sick Child (Flying)

in the distance
our knowledge starts to fade
is this the tops of some turbulent nimbus
or the flat eroded crater of a diseased volcano
hurling upwards

over the sea
peaks of waves dip and echo
the crests and troughs of the wrinkled land
(it would be a hard healing
hitting one of those)

sleeping in derilium
creases across the sheet
lying over the bedrock of a sick child
body lava hot knees quaking
heave geography

© Martin Porter 2011

This poem has a compound title, and no other explanation. I often insert a commentary into a poem in the form of an epigraph or postscript, but there is no suitable candidate for this. The poem is a very recent piece, and I am not entirely sure it is in final form at this stage, but it has gone through my editing process and I'm not unhappy with the current form.

Language used in poetry does not always follow the established rules of written (prose) language. It may be moulded into unusual forms rather like a sheet of metal in a press, and, like a sheet of metal forced into an unnatural shape, exhibits stress patterns and weaknesses as well as structure and strengths. This poem uses a reduced form, rather like that discussed in an earlier entry "in the cinema stalls watching..." Punctuation may allow the reader to construct a different interpretation, although this is still constrained by structure - the stanza, line structure and parentheses. So although the language has reduced coherence, it has not crossed the boundary of meaning to become nonsensical.

In some ways this poem may be seen as difficult in the sense that the meaning is not immediately obvious. As discussed in the entry "Disregarding 12 0 2", there may not be a need for a poem to be immediately obvious. It may be argued that poems which reveal their all in one single glance are just too obvious, but such judgements become subjective. A case, perhaps, of one man's meat... Unlike "Disregarding 12 0 2", this poem is difficult not because of the reduced content of the subject matter (which concentrates on what is actually happening, not where or why) but because of the language and its use. The obscurity is not going to be lifted by a simple internet search, because knowledge is not the issue here, this is a poem that is more about the seen and the interpreted.

This poem starts as a relatively simple description of a scene viewed from above as indicated in the last part of the title, although the first two lines are designed to challenge a simple interpretation. The use of brackets at the end of second stanza is intended to add an external commentary, but external to the narrator rather than external to the poem. Here the poem starts to move towards the edge of simplicity, and the language starts to obtain meaning not from the words used but from the structures in which they are placed. The structure becomes more chaotic in the third stanza, a structure that is prefigured by the word "diseased", which matches the word "derilium" used at the start of this final stanza. Note that the structure becomes chaotic, not disorganised. There is something structural operating there, rather like a defined feedback process that produces unpredictable results rather than just randomness or ill-discipline.

The first stanza contextualises the poem in both space and time. The time is the geological present, the place is what I call "home". The language has to work hard to push this past this boundary to an understanding of the origins of this location. The understanding is not a scientific understanding, however, but a poetic understanding. It attempts to take the reader past the point of tectonic activity and theory and pushes towards the concept that this young land has parallels to a sick child, hence the title. Perhaps this is what gives the poem the opacity that can be seen as a problem. But this is a good place to ask whether a poem should be just description, or just knowledge based, or perhaps something more visceral.

By using structure and move understanding past knowledge by using analogy, this poem tries to push language past the simple use of words. It takes the observation of a landscape on the clashing edge of tectonic plates, pushes language beyond its normal boundaries and takes the reader past  the visible into something that lies beyond the seen. In some ways the language is also searching for this substratum, a language beneath language.

The poem is not just about the known, it is about the experience the feelings and the interpretative process that rationalises and stores the experience into the fabric of the observers conception of nature. If nature poetry is to advance, perhaps it should position both language and place on the edge. The skill is to ensure it soes not fall over the edge, either into the dull or into the incoherent.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère

The poem "Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère, Édouard Manet, 1882" has been published on a free broadsheet available through the Take Flight Writing in Whangarei blog.

The broadsheet can also be downloaded from here.

The poem is based on the painting by Manet, which has fascinated and slightly disconcerted me for many years. It is a painting that just is not right - the perspectives don't quite work, the reflections are physically impossible, the background seems to display an opulence that seems ill at ease, the man in the top hat is just scary and is clearly meant to be us, the viewer. I had been aware that Manet was not an apolitical artist, but the painting seemed to be shouting a message that I just could not get to grips with, perhaps because of stupidity, or ignorance (ie: ignore-ance) or just a plain unwillingness to face the message squarely.

What makes the poem interesting for me is its more ambiguous birth. The epigraph hints at this origin by quoting from Copolla's Lost in Translation, a film I found baffling at first viewing, but which made more and more sense as I thought about it. Rather like the painting, the film offers up a different disjunctive perspective on the world without offering any solutions to the breakdown in comprehension, and it was this that I tried to incorporate into the poem.
When is a poem simply a version of another poem. This poem has so much in common with "in the cinema stalls watching". Clearly it is using different words, a different context and so it is a different poem. Or is it really a different poem and not the same poem, just taken from a different point of view. At the moment this is a puzzle that I have not resolved, but its been entertaining me for some time.

Eventually I came to realise the poem came to a different conclusion to Bob simply because it does not offer any solutions. Instead, the look on Suzon's face says something very different - a look of grief into an uncertain, likely a bleak, future that makes no sense but neverless happens. Its all rather different to Olympia, Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe and even The Execution of Maximilian, all works that reflect a rather more realistic view on the world, perhaps not entirely credible or likely to be experienced as such, but neverless possible. And, of course, this is Manet's last painting.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

in the cinema stalls watching

I saw that distant look in your eyes
the type that says you are concentrating but not concentrating
on the screen
and I leaned over to say

but You said
it is always the same in these movies
two people meet
they strike an unlikely partnership
it develops an unexpected problem arises
the threat is somehow overcome developing into a final happiness

they are just stories

I said
but you must suspend your disbelief
and You replied there are no such things as belief nor disbelief
only indifference

the truth of the matter is the stories are all wrong
it is not the plot that carries us
it is the distant gaze
and the absence
the voice subtly breaking
that slight tightening of the grip
these are the real cast the real plotline
without these there is no syntax no punctuation
and we all live in a screenplay of progression and loss

and we all wish we were in the cinema stalls


© Martin Porter 2011

This poem is also posted on the Take Flight Writing in Whangarei blog.

This poem is a hybrid poem. In part it is a dialogue, in part a list poem.

The origin of this poem is complex. It is, in some ways, a Marilyn poem. But it has many other sources, and somehow Marilyn Monroe has dropped out of the poem altogether. Certainly it has its origins in some of my earlier poems: After the Trailers, Callan in Black and White, The Fairy Fellers Master Stroke anr all unpublished and unread but influential. The mood of melancholy that I hope the poem presents can be felt in Cool (Sharks) and Pigeon Fanciers, published in this blog, and many other poems that I have written. The epistemological reflections can be traced back to poems such as Skin, published on the 52/250 A Year of Flash blog. The mysticism and other-worldliness can be found in many poems, including Pasifika Queen Mab on this blog.

But there are other sources on which to reflect. The poem was written shortly after I watched "Lost in Translation", the Sofia Coppola film that demonstrates disjuncture and bewilderment in a way in which I find all too familiar in the off-screen world. The whole suspension of reality of the cinema (or theatre or opera) based around idealised plots and simplified realities seems to be put under the spotlight in this film, quite the remarkable irony!

The Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake is another more conscious source of ideas for this poem. Particularly referenced is the chapter based around Alfred Prunesquallor's reaction to the death of Fuschia Groan in Gormenghast, a passage I found thirty years ago and still raises the hairs on the back of my neck.

Discussions with the poetry group in Whanagarei have also contributed to the construction of this poem. Particularly influential was a discussion about the role of punctuation in poetry, particularly the capitalisation of words at the start of lines, but also the use of punctuation. Here, I have used capitalisation in an attempt to impose my own structure abd omitted punctuation partially to allow the reader freedom of interpretation, but also to allow an ambiguity in the structure as well as in the language used.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cool (Sharks)

(Baros, Maldives, 10th April 1998)

Black tips break the surface.

Two torpedo twins
Glide, side by side,
Looking cool.

They cruise, irrespective,
Ignoring the black-eye mackerel,
All of a crowd,
Ignoring the sting-ray,
Too big, too intentioned,
Looking cool.

If they were in America
They would be cruising
In unison, among some other racers,
In Cadilacs
Looking cool.

Here, on the reef
Looking tough,
Vicious even,
Ignoring all,
They just glide, side by side,
Two torpedo twins,
Looking cool.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Disregarding 12 O 2

30 seconds.

Twelve o two is crying for attention.
Overloaded, the god in the machine
Is in a state of panic
And demands that you stop.

But down below, the surface
Where you are going
Looks so interesting, so dangerous,
Grey, pored with sharp edged holes,

Tempting in the blandness,
But each block a risk of irreversible
Landing. Dust fans out
In long white streaks

And the shadow of the spider legs
Meet the spider legs.
The guys about to turn blue
Breathe again, the guys up there

Simply breathe.

© Martin Porter 2010

Disregarding 12 O 2 is a poem not without controversy. It has been described as being a difficult poem, which is a description I do not accept. The subject matter is perhaps not as explicit as it might be, but this does not necessarily make a poem difficult. I would argue that the poem is clear in its use of language. The syntax may be more creative than might be used in informal speech but not particularly unconventional, Personally, I think the syntax is plain. The use of words is not complicated, each word being used for its common meaning and the phrases are not uncommonly used either. There are no complicated metaphors, no deliberate double meanings. The poem may not immediately give up its context, in fact the reader may need some research to discover the context, but the event described in the poem is one of the better known of the last century and certainly cannot be said to be specialist knowledge. I would be surprised if I met many groups of people who did not know that the event had occured. They might not accept it, but they would have heard or read of it. Many of my contemporaries may have watched it on television as it happened. So I would not classify the poem as being "difficult".

Is the poem obscure? In one sense it is, in that it does need some research to identify the event. But close examination of the poem opens up clues to some of the solution. The pored grey surface as a destination and the mention of spider legs may trigger some memories in some of the older readers. The phrase "guys about to turn blue" and "breathe again" may offer some clues as well. Try using an internet search to identify them and the event is quite quickly revealed. It does require effort as I have crafted the phrases to not reveal the context immediately but to allow the searcher to discover the meaning. But it should not be hard for the intended audience to achieve this, especially as the poem is published on the internet on the "52/250 A Year of Flash" blog under the theme "Long Distance" - another clue to the meaning - and not as hard copy.

Is the obscurity deliberate? Most certainly. If it was not, the poem would be out of control. While out-of-controlness might not always be a bad thing, it does not reflect well on the craft of the writer. I would not say a poem should always be so restricted as to defy any flexibility in reading or interpretation, but I do believe the writer should engineer the space. Unintended opacity is, in my opinion, a defect in a poem and should be tackled. It reflects that the audience is either the wrong audience for the poem, the poem is the wrong poem for a given audience or the writer does not offer sufficient respect to the poem or the intended audience. Its no less wrong than a single slug in a restaurant salad.

Is this "obscurity" justifiable? Perhaps not, but sometimes a poem should not immediately reveal itself. Sometimes a rather prosaic event becomes interesting simply because it does not reveal its context immediately. I hope the language hooks the reader with phrases such as "Looks so interesting, so dangerous" and "a risk of irreversible/Landing" and encourages the path of discovery. I hope making the poem less explicit than it might be allows the imagination to work more effectively and for the subject to be enhanced by the links to possible interpretations that enhance the readers understanding. In other words, the writing should encourage the reader to imaginatively focus down to the event, rather than restricting the imagination to just the event. Does this prevent the poem from having meaning (whatever that may be)? I think it can give a poem an expanded meaning. It simply places some of the creative process onto the audience as well as the poet, and I believe this can be beneficial. Of course the writer can reveal all the secrets at once, but that can be destructive.

In "52/250 A Year of Flash", further information is added to the poem in the epigraph. I now regret this. I believe it has compromised the readers path of discovery. If the poem is not worth thinking about it is better left alone, The poem could have been made considerably more obvious in its context by replacing the word "holes". I chose not to do this as a conscious decision simply because it would make the context very obvious, perhaps the equivalent of putting any interpretation into a straitjacket. If the poem has value, it is worth researching. I hope the reader of this poem not only finds value in the written words and structure, but also in discovering that a well-known event in history which has become taken for granted has an interest beyond the bare facts - the "science" - and has a beauty and a thrill that is art. I also hope the path to discovery is a rewarding adventure. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Function of a Muse

A muse may be used as a starting point for creative work, but may also provide a support around which the work might develop. The work might be about the muse, but often the work provides the frame around which the work develops, rather like the supporting structure in an espaliered fruit tree. The support shapes the work, but does not provide the tree. That is the function of the tree.

One of my favourite examples in history is Charles Dodgson's muse, Alice Liddell. Alice provided the framework for the quite remarkable weaving of philosophical conundrums and mathematical concepts which otherwise would have been well out of the reach of many adulds, let alone the many children who enjoy the Alice volumes. It would seem just one golden afternoon on July 4th, 1862 spent in the presence of his muse was sufficient to trigger a cascade of imaginative writing from the Oxford mathematician. This is not typical of his normal writing, quite unlike such works as "A New Theory of Parallels", a treatise about Euclidean geometry.

Dodgson's friendship with Liddell is subject to some speculation. The use of a muse need not be so close or even first hand, and this is reflected in my use of Marilyn Monroe. I have not met her, am not likely to in this part of the multiverse, and I cannot even claim to possess much knowledge of her life or art. Sometimes I will catch a snippet of information which acts as the start of a poem and sometimes the poem already exists in some form and the little knowledge I have provides a discipline and form to the work. Occasionally the concept of Marilyn intrudes into the work, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not, perhaps because the concept has proved useful and old habits are hard to be rid of and perhaps because I have come across another article involving Marilyn that is sitting in the back of my thoughts.

Although I do not have a good understanding of how a muse functions, I am still happy to use a muse, knowing I am surrounded in other artists who use the same mechanism to provide great work. I am certainly not going to ignore a tool with such a great pedigree.