Monday, July 16, 2012

William Blake

I've not dared read poetry since I began again - afraid that I would write in the style of the superior rather than my own. but a while ago I decided to try Blake. His style and the form of English then distance him enough that I felt and feel safe. I read some in the collection and then skimmed - I can only find a passing and academic interest in so many poems about children or religious celebrations or sentimental views of nature.

Then, of course, my skimming skidded
to a stop on Tyger, Tyger's undistilled genius. I saw there too that phrase beloved by Northrop Frye: Fearful Symmetry.

This has set me to wondering about scholars spending their lives thinking and writing about someone else's creativity. I know that the better historians can integrate poetic genius into their analyses - but History at its best is literature, not science. I would hope if I ever tried Frye's great study of Blake, Fearful Symmetry, that I would find a work not only of intense scholarship, but of creativity and beauty.


Last night I received a lesson in humility. i am too embarrassed to go into details but shall never look at anything I do or say with satisfaction again. I lay in bed this morning wondering if I would write poetry or work on my novel or not. Then I came across today's blog post by Orna Ross. Her advice is simple: Get down to work.

When in Doubt, Work

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Tonight I realized that my need to write as I feel, rather than plotting out poems or stories to serve a market or to please others ..... can hurt others.  So I am trying to decide what to do... yet another blog, this time with only my black poems?  Shall I bother continuing on the experimental prose/poem/novel or scrap it?  Well..... probably I could not bring myself to scrap it.... but I think I will keep it  dark and out of sight for a very long time now.  The poems.... i'm not sure what I will do here.   I can only write poems that spring from how I feel at any particular moment ..... and there will be more black poems.... and the way things are going right now, probably many more.

Just don't know what to do....

The Analytical Mind and the Poetic Soul

A while ago  I was reading through a listserv where members have been debating and discussing reading the Old Testament. I usually lurk on that list, only once in a while jumping in - mostly because I am not well-versed in the Bible. The post I read this morning which caught my eye talked about how everyone since the Enlightenment reads the Bible analytically. I responded in this fashion, (in one of my rare appearances on this particular list). I post my response here, because it gets to the heart of how and why I write (whether that be fiction, or fact), and how and why I function as an academic historian:

Actually it is possible to pray the Bible rather than analyse it. I was trying to find a way to say this without setting up 'having a simple faith' as the only reverse to this particular obverse. I would guess, anyone who is mostly 'right-brained' - that is to say, poets, artists, musicians, writers of fiction (or perhaps writers in general), and so on, are perfectly capable of reading the Bible without being analytical. Your are correct to a point - that the cultural training which predisposes everyone since the Enlightenment to analyse, analyse, analyse kicks in automatically now and then - but wrong to suppose that this is the default position for everyone. It is not, for me. Yes I will read the Bible - or read the posts here on the Bible and stop and say, 'hey, wait a minute, that doesn't make sense!' - but mostly I read the Bible as poetry - as flashes of colour and light shooting across my mind - as images which together make one grand image. I cannot comprehend the grand image - in that I cannot see it all - anymore than by looking at the sky at night you can see it all in one gaze - you have to move your head about and see bits and pieces - but you get a sense of the whole, of the beauty intrinsic to the whole contained in the bits and pieces you can see.

I have, all my life, wondered at my abilities, but mostly lack of ability to function well in this analytical, left-brained world. Not until three years ago, when I was at the tender age of 58 did I finally become reconciled with, comfortable with, the reality that I do not easily see analytically - but my internal default is to see as a poet sees - to see either beauty or ugliness (sometimes they are the same - that is, there is a strange beauty in ugliness) --

I came up with a personal credo statement to express my (and that of others like me) difference. You might say a good motto for the analytical age comes from Descartes: 'cogito, ergo sum' (I think, therefore I am).

I found a neat, expressive Latin verb which produced my credo: 'persentio, ergo sum' (I feel deeply, therefore I am). This is how I read the Bible. I find the analysis here fascinating and awe inspiring in the work and learning and intelligence which goes into it - but I feel like an anthropologist engaging in participant-observation of a new tribe .....or to be more accurate, I am a former, not terribly successful, member of that tribe who has been away and has returned to realise suddenly how I was different all these years from my old tribe.