Tuesday, August 2, 2016

IN NEW YORK


“I recently moved to New York, and for my first few months here, found myself using the poetry of the city as a map to both its today and its yesterday. In my reading, I’ve been particularly struck by how the city can influence the form of a poem itself, as if the text has to restructure itself to occupy and give voice to such a complex environment as Manhattan. Perhaps the most famous example of this was when Walt Whitman moved to New York and found his lines lengthening across the page, in response to the city around him." Owen Sheers
No, my lines aren't getting any longer. They can't afford to, really, not for the time being. Not till I've fully exorcised the idea that poems on the page need to be a particular length. After all poems are only ever be as long as they need to be. No more and no less but as a spoken word poet, albeit a published one, I dance around...no wait, no need for euphemisms though I am Jacob/Israel in that lovely snippet from the bible about fighting with an angel all through the night... I struggle with the idea of line breaks and punctuation. I feel always as though the poem is disappointed in me if I am suddenly conventionally in my grammar and sign posts. Give me dashes and white space and lines yanking male screws from the left margin. Not for the sake of chaos, though this is occasionally a good cause I like narrative far too much to waste a page, but rather because. You and I do not speak the same just enough that we might recognise meaning but we do not speak or sound or look the same. How boring that would be. Of course I shall need a better argument for my critical essay but her is the nugget of what discomfits my nights --- I am uncomfortable with absolute uniformity.
New York is strangely helping me reconcile what I spent all last week in Lancaster grappling with, in part because I spent all my English days talking and listening in small (productively so) groups and here in New York my time is my own. All I do is walk about and take the metro and stare at men playing dominoes in Harlem before returning the long way around to my bed which faces the UN Building. I have come to New York to give a reading at the Ford Foundation and sit in the company of primarily black poets with a connection to Africa. This is unusual, usually I am the quota, novel in my presence at festivals. I am not interested in singularity, not in this sense. I am not an exception I come from a living legacy of wordsmiths. If my arms flail it is because I am a student wedded to the ideas of creativity and craft not because I have no tradition to look back to. Self introspection in public unnerves most people, not here. In New York one gets the idea that no one cares how inwardly I look. There is something for everyone here even if it is only the reminder that what you seek is elsewhere.
Dear reader I've an assignment to complete now, I'll check in when I can.