Friday, November 16, 2012

The sticking place

Macbeth:
If we should fail?

Lady Macbeth:
We fail?
But screw your courage to the sticking place,
And we'll not fail.


I do not mean to murder poetry. There is about as much profit in that as writing it. But I have slept little these past few days, cavorting with memory, dancing with deadlines. I stacked words thick and high and once I had made that indiscriminate hill for myself, words like water did what they have always done - flow downstream, away from me and so I have emptied myself for now and am back at the beginning. 
And I wondered (it was before I had my breakfast you see) why I do this. Its simple of course, I believe in poetry. Yes as one believes in whatever holds their faith, calls upon their loyalty etc etc. The relationship can feel a little one sided sometimes, they say the power in a relationship lies with the one who cares least and poetry s/he has so many lovers and has never I think been a great one for the proprieties.
Having finally fed this body I went over to hear the poet Alice Notley, who has flown in from Paris to Vermont, give a craft talk about the 'talent of poetry' something she feels is little spoken about. She spoke of how no one acts as though everyone can paint or compose entire musical scores but everyone acts as though anyone can write a poem. Poetry she says is, "a particular talent, and there are degrees of having it". 
Notley spoke about a lot of things - remembering, memorising, reading poetry out loud.
Lady Macbeth's soliloquy  (a1:s5) is one of the first pieces of writing I consciously memorised as a young teenager. I had learnt beauty and the beast intuitively, just from the repetitive listening to the cassette tape that accompanied the little book I loved as a 5 or 6 year old. And of course once you kickstart that memory muscle it takes over; theme music, bible verses, jingles all manner of cultural rubble accumulates and finds a place to stick.
Things stick, others don't, some require effort to retain and so on.
I am reminded that there are more chickens than people in the world and that there are probably more poems in books or waiting in my head to be born than there are chickens. But the poem is not some cuckoo's egg and I am not a bee. It will not hatch fast and throw out antagonistic distractionsby itself and I will not know the shortest way possible home to the poem, not without trying. 

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