Monday, 21 February 2011
The Corridors of the Palace of Art
Epang Palace: A Imaginary Palace
On Wednesday I go to the University of Brighton to give a seminar titled Poetry: Form as Material and I have been giving it some thought. Well, it's always better that way, giving it some thought I mean, but seeing as the choice of theme was mine it is to be expected that I have thoughts ready.
Indeed I do, but what is fascinating about the process of preparing to articulate thought is the way the thought suddenly unrolls in one direction then another, like a hall carpet in a vast hall. You think you know what you think, but then another way of thinking the same thing occurs to you, and as you watch it unwind, you realise there are other possibilities, other metaphors, that can suddenly link the point you started from and the area you thought you were going to cover with another area, that was only a possibility, a glimmering, and there are further corridors, and rooms off the corridors, and even as you are thinking this you find you have another metaphor, and while you remain fully aware that a metaphor is only a metaphor, which is to say it has a life and limits of its own, limits that you must recognise (in what precise way is a thought like a hall carpet, or art like a palace, and what if it were not a palace but a warehouse, etc?) it is at the same time enabling because by the time you have explored it a little, you are somewhere else, and that somewhere is interesting.
And this whole process is not unlike poetry, which too unrolls in metaphorical buildings whose walls seem solid enough as you move, even though you know the walls are only half-there, and yet there are the rooms, the vistas, the furnishings, the figures and ghosts of figures, the whole act a metaphor involving body and mind and desire and apprehension, with the risk of it all fading away into mirage or collapsing about your ears, as is the way with metaphors.
How do I know what I think till I see what I say? Well, let me hold my breath as the saying begins. So it is with everyday conversation, so it is with the conversations in one's own head. Our great intentions, our bright ideas and ambitions, our strategies and firm transactions - all those hard practicalities on which we build a life, all move within these metaphorical, let us say palatial spaces whose walls are so uncertain we have to create them as we speak.
But I will not be talking about palaces. My metaphorical route will start quite elsewhere, in what I hope will be an unexpected place.