Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Widening circles

I've been very interested in Peter Ford's response to my question about self-conscious blogging. Quite apart from the philosophical approach to the subject, there came the realisation of a growing circle of acquaintance, the chance to share ideas with strangers who only know me from what I write. So perhaps it is only right that I should think carefully before posting - not every time, perhaps, but regularly enough to remind myself of the responsibility of the writer to his/her audience.
Philip Larkin, a wonderful poet but a pretty miserable man by my standards, apparently wrote the famous line "what will remain of us is love" (at the end of An Arundel Tomb) *because* he was by that time famous; on the manuscript he scribbled words to the effect that love doesn't last for ever just because a couple of statues are holding hands. So the poem, brilliantly crafted and memorable though it may be, is not actually true to his own feelings.
In my own writing, I have found that it often comes about that a poem on a subject I *really* wanted to write about gets stuck - and the line/image/idea which unsticks it and which sounds much better than the laboriously crafted section which was what I actually *meant* is not true - gives a false impression, misleads the reader, means that the authorial voice is not my voice, but one put on for the occasion.
So: does this matter? Is it better to be truthful or to succumb to temptation? to be unable to agree with the meaning which my reader may take from what I write?
Incidentally, I also have problems over reading literature in translation. At the moment this plays havoc with my participation in Bible study - the text, and my ignorance about source material, keep getting in the way.
But that's another story .....


  1. Anonymous8:47 PM

    I only went to school now and again between the ages of 7 and 11 so I don't really know much about how writing should be done
    I couldn't even tell you what a noun is.
    But I feel I know a little about inspiration. In writing you should be trying to please no one perhaps not even yourself-I mean in writing a poem. I once thought this about a poem - 'A poem is alive it is a living entity with a life force of it's own breaking into the world through the human heart like a plant breaking through concrete'
    An obvious example of inspiration
    is Van Gogh he painted in his sky what the rest of us can only see through the lens of the Hubble telescope.
    Sometimes I think you just have to wait and see what direction the poem itself wants to go and how it wants to express itself it may not be what you want it may not be what your reader wants but if you see the poem as having a life you must respect the right of that life to express itself

  2. Jimmy, if you could have been persuaded to stay in school longer I'd have loved to have you in my poetry class! Often, pupils ask questions like"how do you know the poet was thinking that?" and I'd say, "I don't. But that's what the poem is saying to me and there is no reason (ie grammatical or sense of the words) to say I'm wrong. You could be correct too - as long as you don't ignore the context or misread the lines or be wrong about the meaning of a word."

    I think of my poems as I did/do of my sons - you give birth to them, but once they're delivered and out there in the world they have to make their own way - you can't control how other people react to them!

    By the way, you'll be glad to know I've realised the easy way to backtrack when you post a comment on an archived blog. :-)