new poem & where i'm at

It's a good time for me to take a fortnight's holiday as I need the time to get a solid block of recording done, not to mention some writing, editing, and working out where I take my work next. Especially with regard to my text poetry.

I recently completed the long poem I wrote in instalments here on the blog called north. I re-ordered some of the sections, cut quite a lot out, added some linking parts, and generally tried to ensure there was some sort of underpinning scheme. Reading it again I'm reasonably happy with it but were I to start it again today it would be completely different.

As it happens I'm currently working on two other very long text poetry projects, both currently untitled. The first is a piece pulled together from my tweets to date (with a few removed) amounting to something more than 1200. There actually remains a lot of work to do on this. The first job is to get them sorted into the proper chronological order. My initial thought was to try and use them in this order with additional text helping to impose a structure on the text. But having read through what will be the last two pages in their proper order it's clear anything like that is going to be unreadable. It may even be that taken out of their proper context as intermittent messages mixed in with other information the tweets are worthless and can't be used cumulatively in this way. This is something I will have to experiment with - I have a few structural ideas I'd like to try out once I have the originating text in order.

What was slightly disturbing reading even just two pages of accumulated tweets (from a total of 21) in conjunction with north and with the second long ongoing text poetry project is how conservative they are. This really shouldn't be very surprising. Aside from flurries of experimentation in 1996, 2001 and 2004 my poetry - partly through lack of knowledge of linguistically innovative alternatives - has mainly been confessional/personal. Even if influenced more by film and music than by other poetry. It was only at the beginning of 2008 that I even became aware of the existence of non-mainstream alternatives. Even then my own experiments were only within visual poetry and sound poetry.

Through most of 2008 my text poetry remained rooted in more traditional models. Although I was no longer writing about myself, except where I was making things up, I was consciously playing roles and taking on characters. And those characters were still derived from the more conventional of the musics I listen to - Bob Dylan, Mark E Smith etc. From the middle of 2008 until Spring 2009 I took a conscious break from text poetry. The tweets were originally intended to be a way of getting back into the habit of writing, and a way of imposing rules on myself to prevent the language from becoming too highly coloured or too directive of the reader's response. Within that context I remain happy with north but the reason it would be different now is that as it stands the poem could be read as merely descriptive, or as lyric, or urban pastoral, or even inaccurately as biographical. There is an even greater danger of my tweets being read in this way. I would like to achieve more with my work.

The second ongoing text poetry project to which I've referred a couple of times is another currently untitled sequence for the final semester of my MA. The semester doesn't begin until October but the more material I have in place, and the more time I have to edit the work the better. At present there are five poems complete, although they all need varying degrees of editing. Perhaps the one with which I'm happiest is the second in the series. It comes closest to representing where I would like my text poetry to be at the moment, albeit still more conventional than I'm happy with. It's called variable.

Second in an ongoing, currently untitled sequence

characterised by. rail down only one side of the bridge. heavy cloud. signal processing. fourier transform in this instance, used to change visual signals into audio signals. can be explained asymmetric a quick note. moire patterns. a takeaway coffee cup between train rails. notebook sketched map giving directions. a smell of smoke. sunny. four metre drop to shallow water. acoustic to electric transducer. cardioid polar pattern. caustics from bottled water on snack bar table waiting for friends off the train. dead pigeon coated in oil. stratus. falling slowly. characterised by. umbrella. horses refusing to walk onto a footbridge over the mersey, railings, metal lattice work overhead. seed heads of grasses still green and reflective. microcassette recorder. book sale outside student union, shoe heels pulled back to pavement by a line of tar. hebrew, russian, chinese. cloud broken to cumulus. corvids. a list of names and topic headers. opening this morning another. sap from ivy causes welts up both forearms after half a day cutting it back. humidity. no shower so wash standing at the sink with a face cloth. it's very rare to see more than seven seagulls on top of these streetlights. dermatological cream.


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