journal entry

Funny, starting my MA killed the journal keeping dead in its tracks. Although I have started producing poetry again, an unusually unified sequence for me. So far the MA is pretty easy, that's kind of a dangerous word to use, but on the whole it's true. There is an academic/analytical aspect to it, but a lot of the emphasis is on producing work, which I always find easy. But so far as the journal keeping goes I suddenly seem to have a lot less time for it. The workload isn't outrageous, and the reading and writing I'm doing is a lot more focussed than it usually would be. There's even an obligation to produce a reflective journal, which has grown more and more sporadic.

Actually thinking about it now, it may be that the reason for the decline in my journal activities is that I have a lot of new ideas, information and experience to assimilate, and as I may have said previously it takes a long time for me to do that. The reflective journal is often devoted to exploring thoughts that I'm not even able to articulate yet. It's even possible that the real work of coming to grips with the new experiences of the course is taking place in the poems and prose I'm producing. My writing pulls together a lot of information I haven't yet made sense of. It always means one thing at the time, but I do try to leave loose ends, those odd resonant words and images that seem to come from outside you. Or so far inside you that you can't trace them back to their source.

Curiously I'm just about keeping up with the reading while still being able to do my own reading for pleasure, which I never managed during my BA. At the moment my reading for pleasure is mainly Derek Jarman and Barbara Ehrenreich. I recently bought both Kicking the Pricks and Smiling in Slow Motion by Jarman, and Barbara Ehrenreich's Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy, which I'm powering through. Jarman's writing is brilliant, intelligent and sensitive, and he's so fascinating as a man and an artist that I never fail to find something new or stimulating in his books and films. Reading of the two new books, bought with birthday book tokens, will be dragged out for as long as possible. Dancing in the Streets I'll finish very quickly, possibly even too quickly, but the ideas are the thing. It's stimulating and will have an influence on me.

In fact already some of the ideas from Ehrenreich's book are coming through in the poems and prose, joining the influence of Jarman and The Fall. Subject matter, style, points of view, concepts and structure of the writing all derive from these sources. The Fall's early records from Live at the Witch Trials through to at least Perverted by Language - that extraordinary outpouring of haunted and brilliant language - are a major influence on the poems. Especially the concept of the city as a liminal zone of the irrational and uncontrollable. I don't want to use the word carnivalesque, because it's not accurate in the case of The Fall, and narrower than the focus of Dancing in the Streets, but the two are complementary. The Fall are curiously celebratory, and Barbara Ehrenreich's book is about a kind of spontaneous, truculent rebellion against official culture. The ecstatic trance Ehrenreich describes culd easily be reached through The Fall's Slates, Slags etc., Garden, Wings, A Figure Walks, Muzorewi's Daughter, And This Day, and many more. The supernatural creatures and characters that people the songs of The Fall could easily participate in the ecstatic rites described in Ehrenreich's book.

The intelligence, perception, and 'outsider' status of Jarman and The Fall make a clear match, as does their 'anti-aesthetic' style. By no means outsider in the curatorial sense, or incompetent, both cultivate rough textures, uncompromising, apparently personal art, and an oppositional perspective. Jarman's art is collaborative, and frequently features elements of dance and carnival.

All of this, somewhat palely, I'm attempting to bring out in my writing for the course. The most recent piece is still unfinished, and shows a great deal of the influence of Dancing in the Streets. It still doesn't have a title:

If you listen in Ardwick -
if you listen in Manningham -
if you listen in Gabalfa -
if you listen while you're waiting
for the lift to come -
if you listen over water
in the shower - if you listen
to the derelict mills
and churches - if you listen
to the wood-cladding
cool - you'll hear us.
We dance. Muscle
compulsion. Drunk
as mud on proximity.
We are everywhere.
We bruise the ground.
Tomorrow we'll scatter.

St. Paul. St. Paul
and Naughty John*,
community leaders
condemn this filthy
cult, immorality,
vector of disease.
Rituals, obscenity,
There are legitimate outlets available... reminiscent of the dark ages.
Ecstatics, enthusiasts.
Community leaders,
St. Paul and Naughty
John see hell,
see hell, see no
control. They see
no culture.

A giant spider,
warm and like
an armoured hand
drops out of the tap
it won't fit back.
A barrowload of freezer bags
dug up. In this one
a head, miscoloured,
flesh turning out
of shape on the broken-
biscuit skull.
Every night.
I must escape this.
I must escape this.
I've got to get out of my head. [repeat]

*Naughty John is a fictional serial killer featured in an earlier poem.


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