Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Reading a review in the TLS of a book of essays by WS Merwin in which reviewer talks about the different Merwins, the different poets that live in the neighbourhood , as it were, and I liked that idea of different kinds of poets, different impulses, co-exisiting. I find that a much more congenial notion than a poet of one aspect, one kind, recognisable and predictable. But the reviewer also made another point about Merwin that I think is important. He talked about the Merwin who writes out of impulsion, and the Merwin who writes out of invitation. The first referred to a need to write something, the second to a kind of professional writing, where the writer sits down at his desk, because this is what he does, and produces language in the hope or expectation that this invitation might lead to a discovery. This seems to me to go to the heart of the poet’s relationship with his writing, particularly in an age that favours and expects productivity. The point was that a good deal of Merwin’s work begs the question, ‘did this really need to be written?’. And should something ‘need to be written’ if it’s any good or is that just old fashioned romantic twaddle? I don’t think it is, therefore I think that one characteristic of poetry is its built-in sense of compulsion, urgency. There are many kinds and levels of urgency, of course, but if it isn’t there in some shape or form you have dead language on the page. And yet, there is something puritanical about the impulsion model too, something of the old Romantic imperative. What’s wrong with invitation as a mode of working? Not a thing. Exercising the poetry muscle seems like a very good and necessary activity to me, a way of getting at the core. Urgency sometimes has to be dug for, waited for, invited.
Posted by The Cat Flap at 12:35 am