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Thread: How to Write & The Meaning of Words.

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    Default How to Write & The Meaning of Words.

    I donít want to tell you how to write a poem, there are an infinite number of ways to write a poem, I want to teach you how to be poets, to initiate you into poetry, so that you have a poets orientation to the world, seeing out of poets eyes, turning each interaction into poetry.

    What we are going to do is translate experience, our own individual, universal experience, the very life of us, how it is to be here, moment to moment, perception to perception, here, in this ambiguous, unknowable situation, in this gap, this space which is filled by so many shifting things, to be this perceiving space that is entered, occupied, and departed. To be this home with many visitors and occupants, we are going to turn that into word, and when we do, we will be understood, if we tell it true, every person alive will be able to understand.

    The first thing I want us to do is, I want us to write a poem. They wonít be read or judged or mocked or praised or laughed at. Itís your poem, for yourself so what this requires is a sea-change in our mode of consciousness and being we have to exchange costumes and roles and swap this surface social self for another. We donít need that outward facing self now, that nervous, twitchy social self searching for social cues, trying to gauge the mood of the room and fit itself to what it finds.

    Reflex responses to social cues. Pavlovian conditioning. That shiny silver tea-tray self.

    Thereís something much larger behind that, where we go when weíre alone, or, if weíre lucky, with people we trust.

    Perhaps thereís a taboo here- that we are doing in public what we usually only ever do in private-

    You might feel a counter-force pushing back and resisting, or you might come up against a wall, something very solid in your way, or you might come across actual voices, people, jeering, belittling you, telling you you canít do it, or that you shouldnít or mustnít do it. maybe you feel you canít take yourself seriously enough, or maybe you canít take the task seriously enough.

    If so, be aware of it, take itís measure, engage it, work with it, feel it out. If itís an object, touch it, what shape and size is it? what texture? What colour? If itís a voice or voices, enter into discussion, identify them- who are they? What do they want? What do they look like?

    And in doing so,

    We feel our way in there. something settles inside us, and we get a little closer and we take note of what we find. Perhaps near the entrance thereís some noise, some static, maybe words or phrases, maybe visual information or sensations or sound. Write that too, so that we track the movement in, through this thicket of static, which often is itself replete with information, albeit written as riddle.

    We feel a space open up, with its own specific set of conditions. Facts of the interior, and I want you to drop a word into that space. I want you to drop the word AIR into that space and let it resonate and ripple and write the poem around the central point, the centre of those ripples

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    was there a particular point of contact? Could you categorise and characterise it somehow? The place where it reacts to theme- intellectual, emotional, aesthetic, sensual, comic. Can you locate a tone of voice? A particular attitude taken to the situation. E.g. parodic, social, soft, assertive, tentative.

    Are these things typical of you or do they seem to belong to someone else? Are they words you can imagine saying in conversation?

    What difficulties did you have?

    So where I would like to start, because poems are made of words, is with a word, just one word, to treat a single word as a poem, as something we feel, physically, on the skin, as emotion within us, as a thought, with the clarity of a perfected idea. And the word I want to start with is air. If we can sit with that word, hearing it in the mindís ear and seeing it in the mindís eye and letting it unfold across each of its several dimensions so that the full weight of itís presence is felt, and the full force of itís actuality becomes apparent.


    What happens to our attention, where does it go, what does our awareness encompass?

    To air itself, to the subtle, delicate presence of it, to the all-aroundness of it, to the fact of it.

    And if we sensitize ourselves to it, taste it in the mouth and feel it in the throat and playing across the skin, the way it shifts and folds and articulates itself around our bodies, if we register each tiny fluctuation in temperature as it passes over us- what that awareness does for us, is that it allows us to correct this very dangerous and deadening sense we get, that all of this is static-

    Itís constantly in motion, every part of it

    And this is why we must never stare, we never look AT, as poets we wonít look at. The interrogatory stare pins down what it stares at, fixes it, creates an artificial tableau, we abstract ourselves out of the picture, imagine ourselves disembodied eye hovering above like a drone in the sky- so we have to find that other way of looking, involved and participatory,

    And then we can see the trees breathing and the clouds start moving again across the sky and the grasses sway and birds take flight and the childrenís games begin again. The continuum of events, the narrative thread, and us as a moving part within that great whirl of motion, as air also is always in motion, bifurcated by the blade of our bodies, washing around us and spiralling in vortexes.

    You see, air, is the participatory medium.

    This element we live within, that both connects us, each to each, and separates us, both the space which joins and the space between, itís our medium, we all share it, breathing it in and out in a commodious vicus of recirculation.

    We are dependent on it- as externalised life-support system and chemical transaction- this machinic processing and transformation, through the great processing chambers of the body, transformed and given back- all of us involved in this great work, at all times

    It carries the light, it carries perfumes, stinks, scents, pheromones, savours and aromas and of course, it carries sound. Music. Words. so the air vibrates with meaning, charged with the tension of it.

    Itís where the word comes from, the word gets its impetus from the wind bags in the resonating chamber of the chest and is modulated by the exigencies of vocal chord and tooth and lip and tongue.

    And hear that p in lip please, this physicality, that lip-smacking P, puh, and feel that tuh of tongue, that tongue pressed against the roof of the mouth and released. This physical, muscular, embodied element of words and remember this is the secret to it all- the secret, synesthetic super-language of the imagination, in which everything is connected to everything and meaning inhabits every level of manifestation. Thatís what we want to go away with tonight.

    The voice is a wind instrument.

    So Yeats says of a poem

    I made it from a mouthful of air-

    We take it from air, make it from air, and give it back as air. This knot, this bow, this pattern.

    Or Midsummer Nightís Dream

    The poetís eye, in fine frenzy rolling,

    Doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven.

    And as imagination bodies forth

    The forms of things unknown, the poetís pen

    Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing

    A local habitation and a name.

    Air is unboundaried. One great unitary plane of perfect freedom. Everything connected under its auspices. And this gives a clue to our own condition, this great and terrible secret, that everything for us is also open and shared. That there is no private experience. That there is no subjectivity. That the imagination is a great commons we all visit, that consciousness is of the same condition as air. It is the shared medium. and The etymology of inspiration is instructive here I think,

    from Old French inspiracion "inhaling, breathing in; inspiration" (13c.), from Late Latin inspirationem (nominative inspiratio), noun of action from past participle stem of Latin inspirare "blow into, breathe upon," figuratively "inspire, excite, inflame," from in- "in" (from PIE root *en "in") + spirare "to breathe" (see spirit (n.)). ,

    So you have this public aspect to the air. This revealing quality. This truthfulness and openness. The hygiene of that, the airing of festering secrets, private hurts, traumas and disappointments. Get it out in the open. Expose it to the air. Air your opinion. Your dirty laundry. In the shared matrix of vibrating air.

    Itís own invisibility allows it to reveal everything else to the light, allows everything else to be seen.

    Itís only under special circumstance that we can ever see the air, if instance, when we see motes of dust dancing in a sunbeam, or when we see the leaves shivering on the trees, or skidding across the paving stones in a breath of wind, or when we see those hinged, folding, ribbons of smoke from cigarette, the different currents and speeds and trajectories the smoke makes visible, or the birds on the facets, planes, chutes and corridors of bustling air

    And what else might we think of when we think of air? If we think of sky, of the whole arching space above us, and of everything which tends upwards, like a helium balloon? If we think of having our head in the clouds, or of blue sky thinking, or pie in the sky, or castles in the sky

    We have this association of air with ideas and concepts and imaginings, those things we see first in the mind, before they take on the cloak of matter, that we dream first before we see them, that are light as air, without the weight and turbulence of emotions or physical sensation. Something electric

    And swift and intangible as air is, but we also have this sense of the insubstantial, of the lightweight, of impracticality, of being without substance- with air we have the concept, or the conception, the moment of conception.

    So, this is of course, just scraping the surface, but it gives us, hopefully, some sense of the kind of freight a single word can carry, how a single word can operate as a nexus of energies, a central point paths converge and depart from

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  5. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    So how about do the same thing for the sea, just till we get sick of the sea and want dry land. what does the sea mean to us, and remember of course, for all of us the sea will be associated with all sorts of particular, specific memories, real seas, real waves, actual events we were part of and those memories will give colour to all our imaginary seas

    Weíve always got these layers of response, from the personal to the local to the cultural to the universal.

    And a theme I want to introduce at this point is, we want to perform a kind of dual motion, or identification, we want to feel ourselves in relation to the sea, we want to imagine ourselves looking out to sea, and the emotional resonance and associations of that, of being in the sea, paddling with the foam at the ankles, or swimming quite far from shore, or being on a boat out of sight of land, so we are positioned as human individual against the sea but the other thing we want to do, and we do this always, this is how we operate, we want to imagine ourselves as sea, and sea within us, partaking of the nature of the sea. This is an important point I want you to always keep in mind- we do both. We are the subject and we are the object. The perceiver becomes the perceived, the difference and the distance is COLLAPSED. Does that make sense?

    And we can do that with everything we look at or hear or feel or imagine, we can find the correlate within ourselves.

    THE SEA.

    The Odyssey. The Journey.

    The poetís eye,

    Doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven.

    The journey is from the centre to the limit and back again. And we can think of the mother, this gradual building up of competence and confidence, of putting distance between ourselves and testing our tolerance to this period of separation, starting, perhaps, with peek-a-boo and moving on.

    Or we can think about how we follow a thought or get carried along on a daydream, glancing to heaven, then returning to earth and the reality of the situation. Sometimes here and sometimes there. how this mirrors the journey into the interior, and back again.

    The voyage of discovery. The getting lost. The shipwreck. The changeability. How we move from one climatic region to another- from pole to equator to pole. And here we have another huge cache of metaphors.

    Heís a very cold person, sheís a very warm person. We needed to break the ice. Heís a hot-blooded type. I was boiling with rage, well youíve got a hot temper. Heís mild-mannered. I got cold feet.

    Think of yourself, feel it, that cold we brace ourselves against, that has us hunched and stooped, or the expansiveness of a warm climate, or the irritability of a very hot and humid day, the volatility of mid-summer.

    Moods. Emotions. The changeable quality of the sea. And the sense that these things just happen to us. We are the victims almost, of these moods and emotions, they just arrive, like

    The storms and the becalmings. When we are stuck. When we canít find a way to make it move. To make the medium respond to us. No progress.

    And that mystery is bound up with depths, that all we see is surface, not what lies beneath, harbouring monsters and mermaids.

    Also this rolling and rocking motion, which can be calming, rock-a-by-baby, but after a certain point becomes troubling, disturbing, youíre shaken up by it, youíre rattled

    This buoyancy, of being bourne along, caught up on a current and led inexorably towards our fate

    And as with air, we have this whole slew of negative associations, sea as pejorative-

    Too sensitive, too temperamental, too changeable and unpredictable, without a fixed and dependable nature.


    When the waters break then, we get land. Our feet on the ground. Incarnate. In the earth-suit.

    Solid. Material. Change happens but so slowly that it appears not to. The land moving on a far greater time scale to our own. These geological epochs, continental drift, the land wrenched apart or impacted and crumpled together to make mountains. Home. Got his feet on the ground. And all these different environments that we match up to our various states- this habit we have of turning our interior experience into landscape and environment.

    And again this is associated with climate, with temperature, but also is associated with, for instance, barrenness and fertility, the desert as against the rainforest. Or with high and low,

    The valley, the plateau and the mountaintop. And again we have these journeys, into wilderness, or to summit of some mountain. Whether we are among people or whether we are all alone. Self-isolated and undergoing some trial or other.

    How does it feel where you are now? Can you go somewhere different?

    What about ease of movement in the territory. What is the condition of the gravity? What is the gradient? Is it firm under foot? And what about obstacles? Is there something blocking you? Can you move? Can you see? Is there anything deadening your senses? What is the quality of the information you are receiving? How clear is the transmission? How clear is the picture? What might be affecting the quality of the footage?

    And please remember this is all related to what you encounter when you go inside. When you go into the writing place- what do you find? We have to be very clear about what we find in there. we canít just make stuff up. Weíre not building dolls houses or model train sets.

    Rock and the various metals, iron and gold and mercury and lead.

    The flora and the fauna. The trees and the grass and the flowers.

    E is high and o is low (feel the vibrations in the mouth)

    Squeak! Pushing air through narrow aperture.

    Sigh. Long drawn out vowel. Doesnít end abruptly on a consonant, as flick

    Does for instance. That finality of the k.

    Grip and grasp and grab all have the grrr of gritted teeth

    Push with plosive p. explosive effort

    Drawl enforces a drawl on us

    Croak with its crrrr in the throat

    Murmur, with its undulating repetition and soft ms

    Buzz with the buzzing zs

    Bash bang crash clash

    Roar in which we open our mouth wide

    Moan and groan with their long drawn out os

    Heave- with the pulling in, the long pulling in motion described by its first syllable

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  7. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    So these are the big stagesets. And we can think of ourselves as being surrounded by nouns. Things everywhere. Tree. Grass. House. Temple. Hill. River. And weíve seen how much weight and significance these nouns can bear but we are in a timeless dimension, an abstract realm of Platonic Forms and ideal essences, symbols and archetypes. We lack specificity (SPEC-IF-IC-ITY)

    And we lack change and movement. We are lacking verbs and adjectives and adverbs. Qualities and movements and forces and acts.

    When we want to present something with a great deal of distinctness. Capture something about it, some detail which illuminates the whole, as for instance, if we think about the way a person moves, how a person holds themselves, their posture and their gait gives us so much information, potentially a key to their way of being in the world, to an attitude to the world-at-large, whether that is defensive, cowed, impudent, defiant, obsequious, frightened, bullying, bulldozing, pious, etc etc etc or how we talk, say about how we think of our mood being down (slump, slouch) or up

    (perk up) how time drags when we are bored, how even the word depression operates on the same axis.

    So the principle here, again, is donít stare. Thereís something very cold in the stare and you can see it especially I think in a lot of the novels, American novels and their English imitations in particular, of the 20th century where there is no sympathy with what is being described. Thereís a sadistic element to the stare, always, I would say. I had a vision a few years ago horrifyingly vivid and unarguably 'true' in as much as it represented something real, of an aspect of myself represented as a cold, sadistic, hard face, just like mine can be sometimes in fact, kind of like Foucault's, with the bald head and glasses and trace of perversion-
    and it was hovering above the other faces, as though there were a series of masks, and this the uppermost, and it represented the intellectualising aspect which detaches, which deliberately puts a screen between self and world, which treats perception as the scientist treats the frog he's dissecting. it is a self which is incapable, by design, of experiencing pleasure, hence the perversion and the sadism.

    And this is always the temptation and the trap when we are looking and wanting to capture and describe and encapsulate. Or, lets say, you can have that Lucian Freud attitude with thinks of itself as unflinching, and as honest, whereas in fact it is perverted and sadistic. Very cruel and unnatural. And so what we do again, is we place ourselves within what we are looking at, we get in there, experience it from the inside, what that feels like, the physicality of that, that range of movement, what temperature is it inside there? and how much room do we have to move, is it a kind of fussy space, or a slovenly space, is it rigidly regimented or wildly anarchic? We feel our way in- we note our reaction to it- and we ask, does that reaction tell us something important, and is it telling us about ourselves or about what we are looking at? What is the nature of that content?

    So letís make contact and what I recommend here is to perhaps focus on an area which is less well developed. For instance I often forget the outside world exists, I can go days without noticing it there so as a corrective I often focus there. to put some aspect of that big thing out there into words, whether it is a puddle or a a crisp packet skidding along the pavement in the wind, or the way a seat sags in itís middle, collapsed from the weight of all those arses, big buttock indent in the centre of it. but whatever it is, treat it as objective fact, because it is, in fact, objective fact- a real toad in an imaginary garden. We must be, as Marianne Moore puts it, Literalists of the Imagination

    Letís talk about who you meet in there. you see we are never alone when we go inside. We are always watched. We are always interacted with. Sometimes helped other times hindered.

    Often the first person you meet is the presence Freud referred to as the censor.

    This presence which bars the way. Which resists your attempts to write. To make conscious what is currently conscious. To communicate with the outside. To open up that road between conscious and unconscious, self and not self.

    Often you can find very specific, often quite malevolent characters in there. for instance Iíve come across these sneering, very young bully boys. Infants actually, hahah. These mocking and jeering presences. That want to trample on your flowers! These are among the cast of characters I refer to as the squatters in the tower. Theyíve created a kind of tulpa or eregore and implanted it in your mind and it lives there, at least until you can find the means and wherewithal to eject it.

    This idea that writing is not a proper use of your time. That it is fanciful and self-indulgent. And here just think of what forces are arrayed against you-

    There is a battalion there, huge energies and resources will be expended in the bid to keep you from writing and persevering with your writing. They want to keep you out of this place. They want you well away from here. The more they shout KEEP OUT THEREíS NOTHING TO SEE HERE the more obvious it becomes that this is precisely where we must go.

    You have your parents in there of course, and other formative influences. Your friends all live inside there and often have useful or damaging things to tell you.

    PUCK, Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed.

    You have your lover in there. not the person you are seeing presently, or even the very first person you ever loved or desired, but that presence you conjured up for yourself from the very start, from the first time you heard a love song and responded to that- or any depiction of such in a book or film. These experiences operate as flight-simulators for the real thing, foreshadowing of experiences to come.

    Instructors and frustrators.

    States are physiological conditions. A manner of breathing. A heart rate. A specific contracting of muscles, of distributed tensions. A biochemical reality of adrenaline and dopamine and serotonin.

    So when you write an emotion, ask whether your writing partakes of that emotion, if the words and they way they fall out on the page, are angry, or filled with longing, if they sigh or snarl. And if there is a disconnect, as why.

    A line can move along the horizontal discharging its energies along a single explosive trajectory.

    A line can move more lazily, meandering as the mood takes it, its attention caught by first one sight and then another

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  9. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    Written by me, Kusta Ben Luka, for you, The People.

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  11. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005


    you didn't write that...too many capital letters, proper spelling and each comment is longer than two sentences.

    nonetheless, interesting stuff, thanks!

  12. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2011


    Quote Originally Posted by luka View Post
    It’s where the word comes from, the word gets its impetus from the wind bags in the resonating chamber of the chest and is modulated by the exigencies of vocal chord and tooth and lip and tongue.

    And hear that p in lip please, this physicality, that lip-smacking P, puh, and feel that tuh of tongue, that tongue pressed against the roof of the mouth and released. This physical, muscular, embodied element of words and remember this is the secret to it all- the secret, synesthetic super-language of the imagination, in which everything is connected to everything and meaning inhabits every level of manifestation. That’s what we want to go away with tonight.
    No, no,
    the dear heaven knows, and the farther the from it, if the whole
    stole stale mis betold, whoever the gulpable, and whatever the
    pulpous was, the twooned togethered, and giving the mhost
    phassionable wheathers, they were doing a lally a lolly a dither
    a duther one lelly two dather three lilly four dother. And it was
    a fiveful moment for the poor old timetetters, ticktacking, in tenk
    the count. Till the spark that plugged spared the chokee he
    gripped and (volatile volupty, how brieved are thy lunguings!)
    they could and they could hear like of a lisp lapsing, that
    was her knight of the truths thong plipping out of her chapell-
    ledeosy, after where he had gone and polped the questioned.

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