“Immanent living matter swirls through us all constantly, indeed this is what we are.”
It’s the norm today to know that poetry can be found in many forms of writing; can be recognised in literature that aspires to further complexity, rather than an overly literal or reductive notion of truth. But this ‘I’ that does the talking, what and who is she? I am being mindfully disingenuous, of course, but this porous ‘I’ is the start of all my poems, indeed my poetics. She blurs her way into the world and it into her; the poems emerge from this altered state of mind.
So, a poem begins in an inarticulate feeling, often in my stomach, a sense of something moving nearby. Indeed, matter itself is unstable, and the world is alive so this isn’t a fantastical notion. To recognise this sensation, I often write in situ, in a location. Recently, this has been at holy wells, the park, a corner of the street, the back yard; anywhere that speaks. You’ll notice I stretch the idea of speaking here also. Thinking is embodied, so these intuitions are communication. My work as a poet is to use my desire to articulate, to do, well just that – to find words for what needs to speak.
And the words come by listening. I do think the poet is a conduit, understood not necessarily in mystical terms, but in the philosophical tradition of new-material or post-human thought. Immanent living matter swirls through us all constantly, indeed this is what we are. And if poetry is understood as a mode of knowing, the poet then thinks by opening to these energies and moving them into another state: words. Form and sound pattern are then important here. The constraint of the brevity of a poem (even a long poem), the rhythms and the sounds patterns, produce a focus, an improper ‘self-hypnosis’ which allows the energy to reshape into further rhythm, figuration, and emotional affect.
If poets keep close to this dynamic reality, then they write poetry. Much technique is then needed; practice in improvisation, careful editing, responses from readers or other poets. The finished poem can take months to sculpt. But the first draft, written by hand in a notebook in reaction to vital experience, if I’ve been listening with care, will always hold an energetic impulse. Knowing this impulse is an art in itself and requires intuition and some courage; often poems manifest in a particular image, or musical quality to the sound patterning, more recently dialogue and voices; turning the unseen into language requires thought, literary knowledge, and critical reason.
So, how I write a poem, is how I think, on a good day, in non-linear, fervent connections, spacial and expansive. Poetry is not representational thought, but thinking understood as ethical, embodied action. And poems begin in the reality of our being part of a constantly shifting, complex ecological relation to which we should all attune our bodies.
Do listen to the poets. The best of them have been doing this work since humanity found the words we needed to evolve. Please do pay attention.