“Nothing is more dangerous than a weak imagination” —- Katy Evans-Bush
I realised today I’ve been far too caught up with the modern wave of poetry acting as a diary, a dictaphone, a recording device, as opposed to a far more creative tool. You have the school of thought that poetry should represent the world, should tell us or show us “how things are.” If I compare this to the visual arts, it puts me in mind of realist paintings, landscapes and portraiture. These have never been the types of art to interest me. I once saw an enormous canvas of a cityscape at sunset, which had no doubt been meticulously crafted, but all I could think was how, if the ultimate goal was to capture the most life-like essence of a view, surely taking a photograph would be much better – the ultimate accuracy, but still with its flaws. It has a long standing tradition and is often admired, but I find it a redundant medium. If we want to see the world we may simply look. Art should re-imagine the world and, I believe, so should poetry.
We are uniformly taught the same things and spoon-fed the same systems of belief and ideologies. We’re dissuaded from imagining and daydreaming and knocked down pathways of dull, meaningless labour, boozy weekends and not much else. Poetry can be an antithesis to this, a sort of kit out of which we may construct new belief systems, new ways of engaging with reality. It’s very hard to describe, but if I play certain types of music as I’m walking along or sitting on the bus, and if I let myself open to all those thoughts wanting to rush in, then it’s as if a new utopia of words is being constructed by a million ants in my brain. Images, sentences, fragments, thoughts that I haven’t even been able to fully articulate yet. These pieces, like scales of ghost armour, almost create a second self – a hologram I may project and live through, a decoy-me I may send forth to fight my battles. I believe if you are able to tackle life with this poetic tool kit, it can help you survive the mundane, the repetitive, the disappointing. Your mind becomes a muscle strengthening itself against reality through the power of imagination.
From a very personal standpoint, I feel if there are difficult times you’re going through, if you’re able to step back, outside of it, and dismantle the entire reality of it with creative thought alone, like tearing down the facade of stage scenery, reconstructing how you view the situation, how you feel about it, how you might get through it, then, well, that has some worth, something to be said for it – doesn’t it? I don’t always believe events in life are these solid towers of stone we cannot get around, but dissolvable glimmers we can let sluice through our perception of reality, or re-build into something new, Transformers-style.
Molly Naylor explains it well in this quote, taken from The Rialto’s blog:
“ …that’s what saved me: the fact that it’s easier to scrub, and clean, and wipe and serve if you have poems in your head. If you have developed the capacity for creative thought and been given the tools to reflect on the world and view it in a framework outside of ingrained capitalist ideals. If you have discovered some ways of thinking that recalibrate notions of aspiration and its relationship to the acquisition of possessions and status.
Simply put, it’s about instilling basic artistic sensibilities. Which link to being able to question the way we live our lives and how we relate to the other people we encounter in the world”.
Today, walking in the crisp autumn air through dappled shade and sunlight, I was half-caught in a glittering wave, I was resident of an ice palace on the moon, I was conducting a symphony with Medusa on the beach, I was stepping away from a dead summer party in the garden of Versailles in which blue china cups and orange paper parasols had been discarded and the echo of chatter from long-retired party guests still ghosted the air, I was X-rayed and imploding to scatter shots of violet dust only to reform and disperse endlessly, I was having a wonderful conversation with someone who makes me feel incredibly happy while baroque-styled girls with bat wings shook their crinoline garments in the shadows of shop doorways, and all the while passing through my local village, among Co-ops and post offices and hooded kids flitting about on bicycles trying to persuade strangers to buy them cigarettes. All these things happen when I go out for a walk, especially with headphones, and when I’m open to the possibilities of what might be behind the facade of everyday living. Poetry should make all fantasy and all dream the living, breathing world.
(So! This has sort of become a critique of “realistic” writing, and a self-help exercise in how to cope with life. Hmm.)
What this really leads me to is the style in which people write, and how we go about capturing this impossible existence we cannot touch.
I’m finding myself looking back to abstract writing lately, instead of trying to accurately portray a moment in time, or a scene I have witnessed that took place in somebody’s living room or in an office. The problem is, it’s an incredibly difficult skill to master. Too much abstract imagery can quickly slide into a frustrating muddle of nothing. I believe in ordered and constructed non-sense, but this is only a step away from a style of writing that leaves the reader cold and fails to engage. Perhaps the glittering pool of ephemeral abstract thought is a starting point, out of which we might build some solid castle of meaning. I’m not sure. All I know is that, for a while now, I’ve felt there’s something always out of my reach, just beyond reality, that’s trying to push its way into being, or I’m trying to grab it and hold it, if only for the time it takes to crumble to dust, and poetry, for me, is the building of a ladder to reach that (possibly unattainable) plateau.