Clocks, Comparisons & Fears.
Question: Some of your middle poetry seems to have focused on time and clocks quite a bit. “Poetry Takes Us Up the Pendulum” is a rather odd line that seems loaded with some sort of slang innuendo. The Pendulum appears key there really and then within your rhyming scheme you issue the command to your own ambitions to be dulled by the pen... Is that the same rudely stated idea, an instruction to the pen, to dull, fight or duel... the self ?
Well I had the good fortune to meet an Asian Jesuit priest one time and he was going on about waking up and becoming aware and seeing the true nature of things and all that sorta stuff. And I was talking with a poet friend in the pub a night or two after meeting yer man, I only recently heard about an American poet and writer called Kenneth Patchen basically saying the same thing the priest was but he was actually doing it in a wonderfully crazy way, mixing up poetry within texts and ideas of what poetry or texts really where on a page, he was showing rather than telling or doing rather than preaching it. And I was saying that his stuff seemed to hold some new, maybe almost unique, truth. Got me thinking about these two very different types of people settling on this similar idea that we’re all really asleep to the world and maybe poetry or making poetry might be some sort of mental morning cockadoodle, one that has the power to wake us up to ourselves in life. When we stopped laughing about it, that was when my friend said life wasn’t best understood as a dream but as a pendulum. It’s a pendulum that swings us and our lives when we are engrossed in the full materiality of the everyday. We’re deeply involved and awake in the day to day, getting swung, sometimes violently, from good times to bad times, the ups and downs, a side to side entanglement. The average person, and you and I are in that bracket, is just left swinging. We hit all that negative stuff a couple of times and keep getting flung from side to side. Keep getting hit enough times and you and I will eventually look up, to higher things. It’s only then you notice that there are others, who seem in some sense less affected, even a little removed, from the effects of those violent swings we all must experience. If we genuinely see that then our attachment to the violence of those swings hits home. And yet the world’s tribulations don’t appear to have the same effect on certain people like my Asian Jesuit friend and others like him. They appear less involved in those day to day swings, day to day things, the highs and lows, they become less attached to our wholly material things at the bottom of that pendulum, as they are less and less attached they find themselves higher and higher up the pendulum where swings don’t move them in the same way as they move the rest of us. The arc reduces. Then wise men, the sages and guru types, they strive only by non-entanglement, non-embroilment with the material to get to the top of their pendulum. They just witness the world and struggle to the top by cutting away their ties and involvements with the swings of the world, some even find themselves at total peace at the top, resting untouched at the fulcrum. But like all mechanical parts, the pendulum needs lubrication to keep on working, the pendulum of our material existence is an oily greasy pendulum and the forces of life, the powerful forces in existence in this material world naturally drive or drag us all back down towards the violent swings, to the bottom. To avoid those constant violent swings, for me and maybe only me, poetry provides the potential remove from that lower edge of life’s pendulum. The more I engage with it, making and reading it, abstracting myself, the further up that Pendulum I can get. Any ideas I ever had about powered poetry just became an amplification of that idea in many ways. But in those early years I wasn’t the typical cocky young fella that knew he was right and the world might somehow seek to reward me. I was stuffed full of fears.
Fears about self and fear about others. If I don’t write I can’t make mistakes in writing, I can’t be misunderstood, I won’t be judged, my work won’t receive criticism and I won’t have to live a lie about thinking I might have some gift of talent. I try using non-expectation, the basic idea that nothing is expected and nothing will or can be achieved, to me it means my imagination can roam unfettered, no solid anchor to pull thoughts down into the world. As soon as I start to coral that imagination into the expectation of work, fear enters, I have crossed some point, I’m back to bridges, calculating spans, thinking about the block solids of the words and deeds. When what I really am is the river flowing between those two banks shaping them, any kind of bridges become something that serves as a landscape of inner connection, joining myself to me, offering me a definition in the world, exposing the extent of that flow but never offering up it’s true depth or shallowness. Seeing beyond those bridges, the guides, connections we make, examining the mental geography means having some kind of chance to view our true selves, albeit reflected in the flow of the water. Some people if they start writing poetry become aware of that water but spend all their time looking at the underside of the bridges they try to make, never getting wet.
Question: So in terms of some kind of vision around your term electric or powered poetry, do you believe your poetry offers the opportunity for some kind of communication regarding inner comparison?
The only true communication can be between my work and me, if I am offering anything, it’s a ground upon which no other can really stand, to borrow and bastardise Yeats, as I already have many times: I offer only “an ungovernable see”. I suppose Martyrs and Saints are the only ones that should have visions and most of them end up get persecuted or murdered because of them. So visions like the ones Blake wrote about just weren’t and aren’t the kinda idea I wanted to have anything to do with. When I went along to the first poetry meetings in Camden I heard all that kinda talk about muses and influences and visions and to be truthful I wondered where it was all coming from, none of the fellas talking looked like they did a day’s work in their life. But there they were talking about ‘communicating their vision of an essence of the pastoral’. I thought they were talking about buns or something. I don’t know why or how I ended up there, I went away from it thinking I know too much about the real world to ever be a poet.