Thursday, September 04, 2014

he wishes for the cloths of heaven



I'd never given poetry much thought before. Despite my voracious appetite for words, poetry always felt so unattainable. So easily misinterpreted. I always had this idea that I was supposed to feel something, to respond, to grasp this obscure meaning. And the fact that I was generally left scratching my head made me feel incredibly vacuous, and hence I avoided poetry. Until now. 

Because, recently I was asked, by my uni lecturer, to decipher the meaning of The Red Wheelbarrow - a poem by American modernist William Carlos Williams. I crashed headfirst into my lifelong avoidance of poetry and felt frustrated by what was in Williams' work that I could not wrap my head around. 

And then just last week at the Melbourne Writers Festival I was lucky enough to attend a session with English poet Simon Armitage (I bought one of his books so expect more talk about him). Listening to him talk about his poetry and read some of his work aloud was an experience I won't soon forget. It had me casting about for something solid in poetry that I could grasp and make sense of and pull meaning from. Something that was attainable, or at least felt like it. And then I discovered Yeats. That's him above. 

We were born on the same day. Just about a hundred and fifty years apart, an immaterial detail in my opinion. I like to think that's why I seem to have a strange affinity with his work. And one piece in particular.

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths,
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.


I'm not sure what it is, but I understand these words in ways I've never understood poetry before. Here I am, if I had everything I would give it to you. But I do not, instead I can only lay my dreams under your feet. And all I ask is that you tread softly, so as not to destroy those dreams. If that's not a declaration of love, if that's not passion, what is?  

Surely trusting someone so much as to lay yourself, with all your dreams, down for them to cushion themselves against the harshness of the real world is akin to the both the craziest and most beautiful thing you would ever do?

Maybe poetry is not so unattainable after all. 

kb xx

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

microfiction in the cube




Last Sunday week I was sitting in a Melbourne Writers Festival session on microfiction. I was listening to Sam Cooney chat with writers Angela Myer and Oliver Mol about the expansion of fiction to include things like microfictions, flash fictions, sudden memoirs - the terms are seemingly fluid, but nonetheless intriguing and fascinating. Can you tell a story in 300 words? In an increasingly digital world where our attention spans closely resemble that of a goldfish, is it the only way? 

Sitting in the darkened, but lovely, Cube at ACMI in Federation Square a memory popped into my head, seemingly from nowhere but subconsciously connected all the same - as memories that pop into our heads often are. 

I’m young, five or maybe six, and I’m working on a school project. A project that requires me to write, illustrate and bind my own book (I guess I can claim self publishing experience from this). I write my story, draw my pictures (albeit terribly) and bind my book with a combination of staples and sticky tape. I remember trimming where the pages went outside the edges of the covers and opening my book to find I’d also trimmed the edge of my drawings. Perhaps I shouldn’t claim that self publishing experience after all. 

As I listened to the talented and wonderful Myer and Mol discuss their work and the shifting concept of fiction and memoir, I pondered my school project, conceivably a microfiction, and my own creative work to date. The idea of writing anything longer than a few thousand words had always seemed out of reach for me, daunting even. Like I needed more life experience, or more knowledge of all the words in the dictionary, to be able to create anything worth reading. But maybe I don’t. Not all stories need five hundred pages, some don’t even need five hundred words. Maybe we can tell stories through moments instead of lifetimes. Maybe literature is not directly connected to the time it takes to read. 

Mol shares a lot of his work on social media, he says he’s addicted to the likes. And I’m fascinated by the idea. Just like I’m fascinated by microfiction. As I walked to the train station after the session had ended, I typed moments into my phone. A homeless man with a library book, an advertisement for diamonds illuminating the footpath before me, tiny wooden forks as weapons. Is this microfiction?

I’m not sure where this is going. I’m not sure what this means. But I know as I sat in the Cube, as I listened to Myer and Mol discuss their work, it felt real. It felt possible. 

kb xx