Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cry Wolf

I interrupt this chocolate break to say that I am more than a little put out to find that any old Tom, Dick and Hanif can write a book and then find themselves labelled (albeit in sublime piss-take) as a "Reader of Signs." Look here if you don't believe me.

And what I want to say is, there ain't room for two of us in this town. Oh - I nearly forgot, I don't live in town any more. Well then, there just ain't room. I too have dark secrets, existential angst and am able to ruminate copiously on all manner of mid-life misery. If that's what it takes, I mean to say!

But here at Signs Cottage it's just the same old, really. Poetry Boot Camp is rather more boot camp than poetry right now, but on I go because that's the kind of sign-reader I am. I am stuck on account of a wolf. It is an imaginary wolf but a confounded nuisance as it refuses to be fully imagined. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and I am doing the only thing possible: eating more chocolate.

I do this so you don't have to. Just saying.

28 comments:

THE PERIODIC ENGLISHMAN said...

You seem mildly unhinged today, Signs. I like it. The level of self-sacrifice you display in gamely chomping your way through ever more chocolate is commendable - and everyone is grateful. You're like a Cadbury's Messiah, Signsy, grazing uncomplainingly for our sins. The children of our villages sing your name.

The link you supplied, by the way, was devastatingly cruel and funny. The weedy impostor Kureishi is laid low, surely, by this meticulous onslaught - and the one true reader of signs can ride again, victoriously, without fearing the distraction of messy competition.

As you were, Signs. At ease.

Reading the Signs said...

Very much appreciated, TPE, but not Cadbury's, no. I cannot be their Messiah for I do not like the thing they produce and have the cheek to call chocolate. Well I can't say much more for Nestle either. I like chocolate with unpronouncable names and ridiculous claims. And Galaxy is ok. Today I had a bag full of chocolate gingers from the health shop - no brand.

The thing I was actually doing for your sins is the boot camp, you know. Suffering for Art and, of course reading the signs.

But on the other hand, I quite like the idea that I can redeem the world by eating chocolate. Yes.

THE PERIODIC ENGLISHMAN said...

You are a Belgian Messiah, then, perhaps? This seems to be the natural conclusion to draw from your anti-Cadbury's tirade. There are certainly some ridiculous claims made for Belgian chocolates, Leader, although I'm never entirely sure why.

I briefly considered calling you a Toscano Black 70 percent Messiah, Signs, but Cadbury's tripped off the fingers more readily. Plus, a 70 per cent Messiah kind of suggests a Messiah with 30 per cent of things they wish to hide. I'm sure you'll understand.

Not that it matters, though, because you seem to be hinting that it is the poetry thing you punish yourself with (on all of our behalves.) The chocolate you do for free.

You're my kind of Jesus, poet.

witnessing am i said...

Don't let 'em off the hook, Ms Signs. Show em your five-fingered sign, all curled in a fist.

Sometimes poetry only goes so far.

THE PERIODIC ENGLISHMAN said...

I. Spy. Violence.

Unless I am very much mistaken - which I am - you seem to be suggesting that our hostess gets down and dirty, Mr Witness. You would have her punch folk indiscriminately, like a rampaging and criminal poet? She could go to jail, for pity's sake.

Poets get given a separate wing in most high-security prisons - for their own safety. Unfortunately, this means they are even better poets if and when they ever get out. Hardened poets, if you will, fully versed in their criminal art. Frightening.

Signs - MR W has a point. It is high time you went totally spazzo and ballistic. I'd pay to see it.

It's not just that poetry only goes so far (which is true) - all words, however formed, only go so far. Language fails us in the end.

So it's time for action, Signs. Lead, and we shall surely follow. Or, at the very least, watch.

Reading the Signs said...

You are right, Mr. Witnessing, but - you know what? I am going to try the impossible and do that five-fingered fist thing with poetry. And risk people calling me a bit of a cowboy. Not a compliment if one is a plumber, but it could confer a measure of rockanrolldom with poetry.

oh, and Anna? Boo!

No, TPE, I am not going to go all spazzo (language, TPE!) and ballistic for - and listen to this carefully, for here is the very substance of life, the universe and everything - where language fails, poetry begins and so I am, as it were, on the front line.

But about the chocolate: yes, I do it for free, the eating of it. But I am not a Belgian chocolate Messiah, no, I am a dark, bitter and noirish (Montezuma) one. Though Galaxy, as I said, is ok, and so is Lindt, especially when it is a golden rabbit.

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

Give 'em hell, Signs. You are, I am quite convinced, far the better reader of signs than all the Toms, Dicks and Hanifs. Besides, you have chocolate on your side and that makes you invincible! Oh yeah, and poetry too!
;-)

Reading the Signs said...

Oh shucks, Vanilla, it's kind of you to say so. Not that I have any doubt really but, you know, it's good to be cheered on. You speak as one who knows about such things.

Collin said...

I'm eating sympathy chocolate right now and thinking of wolves in your honour.

Reading the Signs said...

This is appreciated, Collin - and I think your wolfish thoughts may have done the trick.

tpe said...

I listened extra super carefully, Signs, I really did, but your message still failed to reach me, alas (apart from the golden rabbit and Galaxy bit, obv.) Our world views must part company at this point, it seems, and we may never recover.

You say: where language fails, poetry begins. I would be rather more prosaic, I'm afraid: where poetry fails, other forms of language - including yet more poetry - may be attempted, as a stalling tactic, before the inevitable frustration and failure. But do keep trying, people. Something like that.

Poetry, according to my excitable brain patterns, can never supercede language, in fact, because, without language, poetry is necessarily silenced. It is made up of language, you see, and so if language is seen to have ultimately failed then poetry, as a constituent part of language itself, must necessarily have bitten the dust. Conversely, if poetry prevails, then language is the winner. Along with the rest of us, in fact.

Still, I like the thought of you being on the front line. I picture you wearing a tin hat in the trenches, Signs, urging your shattered poet-warriors to make one final push. A silent and deadly enemy, mouths slightly agape, bombards your position with rapid volleys of barely decipherable text messages. What they lack in communication skills, they more than make up for in numbers. They are legion, these dark and mumbling hordes, and they threaten to overrun you - without once even looking up to watch where they're going.

Battle-weary and spattered with fragments of text-speak shrapnel, the starving poets must find it within themselves to fight the good fight once more. As they whisper unrhymed iambic pentameters to one another during rare lulls in the fighting, it would be so easy for them to agree to simply give up the ghost. You will rouse them, Signs, with an inspired Panegyric to language itself and to the importance of words and articulacy.

I see them stirring, those poor battered wordsmiths, filled with distaste for these inelegant times, provoked by the encroaching tide of sullen mediocrity to raise their standard and fight. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.....

A simple quatrain is lobbed vociferously and explodes at the feet of the dull-witted and ambling marauders, scattering them briefly in confusion. Another follows and then one more. A discharged cannon fires a Heroic Couplet straight into enemy camp. The poets cheer wildly and increase their efforts. Hexameters and heptameters, six and seven strong, fall into the ears of the texters. A Chant Royale and a saucy double dactyl flummox the glass-eyed pretenders. Once more, dear friends, once more....

Dissonance bombs, doggerel and sonnets, macaronic verse and sestinas. These are the weapons we use on our foes and they blanch, Leader Signs, as they hear us. Similes and singlets, tankas with adonics, allegorical allusion and tornadas. And from the clear sky there comes a keening, a cry, an ice cold fury, as bunker-busting tetrameters and suicide-haikus ruthlessly search out their dull prey. Once more, dear friends, once more.....

Yes, I should probably spend a lot less time thinking about this stuff. Still, like I say, I enjoy the mental imagery of poets on the front line, Signs, with you as their redoubtable leader.

Happy Monday.

Your stallion and fighter cetra cetra.....

TPE

Reading the Signs said...

TPE I think you are wilfully misunderstanding me and here I sit having just come back from the Smoke, eating one of those rice triangles wrapped in seaweed that you can get from this one stall at Victoria station, too tired to make any sense at all, but anyway: of course, of course language. But where it is de-natured, where it fails - where all systems fail, poetry begins, is essential.
Like in a scene from the film “American Beauty” when a white plastic bag on a stretch of asphalt by a brick wall is caught by the wind and begins to dance. The boy who captured the image on film says, “that’s the day I realised that there was this entire life behind things and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid.” That image too, and the witnessing of it, is a kind of language, and it's when language enters consciousness that poetry begins.

And now I've finished last night's popcorn too.

Happy Tuesday, McTPE, for it is already here, and I must get some sleep, all the better to arise on the morn, take up my battle cry, unsheath my sword and fall upon the enemy with a Petrarchan sonnet, beat them senseless with a sestina and confound them utterly with hitherto undreamed of free verse forms. Thanks for the confidence you show in me. Someone's got to do the job, and it's nice to be appreciated. Strikes me that a spell in the army might be appropriate for you, and all. I'll put in a word for you, if you like.

tpe said...

Spooky. My girlfriend and family are always trying to get me to enlist in the army. Poor pay, they say, but I'll get to see the world for a very, very long time. S'nice of them to look out for me like that.

You would eat popcorn whilst we look at our screens? We're not at the cinema, Signs, this is a serious business here. We have just fallen out spectacularly - possibly terminally - and yet you sit there, like a teenager at a Bruce Willis film in the late eighties, grazing. This isn't Hollywood make-believe, you know, this is real life.

Anyway. Hmm. Your definition has changed somewhat: "where all systems fail, poetry begins....."

Well, yes, but this would depend, I suppose, on your definition of the word "poetry". Clearly you don't mean the first couple of dictionary definitions that any casual browser would come across ("literature in metrical form; verse") because that would be a claim too far and would assign elite privilege and power to the forming of words in a particular order - and that doesn't seem quite right to me.

You may think I'm being pedantic - and you'd be right - but in a conversation which touches upon the power of language and the unique chance we have been given to communicate with one another, then this doesn't seem like such a bad thing (for once). So, whilst fully cognisant of the fact that you are talking about broader ideals and bigger ideas and seem to be applying the word "poetry" in it's most rounded and beautiful sense, I would still fall short of agreeing with you.

My definition would now be: "where all systems fail, something else begins - I'm just not sure what and feel reluctant to assign a set word to it, because this makes it feel immediately smaller...." Does that seem fair? Or are you loading your gun as you read this? (Anyone who can type and eat popcorn simultaneously is going to be able to assemble a rifle whilst reading - so don't be pretending the thought hasn't at least crossed your mind, Signs.)

Still, it seems like we agree that there is a language (and a poetry) that goes beyond mere words - no arguments there. It's just that whilst operating under the strictures of the spoken/written word, then it seems quite reasonable to do so carefully and with an understanding that words import meaning all of their own. Your "poetry", under these circumstances, becomes my "something else". Not much to argue about, really - although horribly exciting for an anorak like myself.

As for the other thing, your guy in the film American Beauty, well.....

On seeing a paper bag dancing with (and in) the wind, he says:“that’s the day I realised that there was this entire life behind things and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid.”

Not having seen the film, I can only hope that he was sufficiently young when he made this beautiful (if lumbering) discovery, otherwise he will have wasted a whole heap of his life. I'm not entirely sure where he gets the word "benevolent" from, though. This seems overly optimistic and simple.

There is an incredible force out there, sure (and I am choosing to refer specifically to nature here, although you must feel very free to delete or apply God as appropriate), but it seems reasonable to assume that a starving guy in Africa, say, or the parents of drowned children in Bangladesh, would at the very least question the benevolent intentions of the force(s) being used against them. They have every reason to feel afraid and so I'm not so sure, really, that your guy's insight can be applied universally. Although variations on the theme are essential, I feel, if one is to glean any consolation from this curiously cruel existence.

Right. Let's FIGHT.

Oh, wait. No, I wasn't wilfully misunderstanding you. Given the fact that I thrive on wilful misunderstandings, however, I can easily see why you might think this way - I love the picky battles that ensue and find them fun (as you know to your cost). But no, I was actually just a little careless and literal in my reading of your words. My bad, Signsy. Sorry about that.

Only good things to you, comrade.

TPE

tpe said...

Update: I'm talking rubbish (for a change). I have seen American Beauty - it's the one with Kevin Spacey, I think. It doesn't change anything, of course, but I quite enjoyed that film (or, more accurately, Kevin Spacey.)

Anyway, I went to check on YouTube for the paper bag thing you mentioned and it suddenly dawned on me that I had seen the film already - although I'm buggered if I can remember the paper bag. Drat.

Night, Signs.

Reading the Signs said...

TPE, of course you don't remember a paper bag because it was a plastic bag - important detail because it couldn't have done what it did else. And now, in the cause of Poetry and for your edification, I am going to attempt that html thing:

the plastic bag epiphany

Did I succeed?

Reading the Signs said...

Oh yess, Signsy the Tech. And yes, he was young, as you will see. But what is this word "overly"? Damnation to glorious hell, TPE, you wanna FIGHT? It's optimistic and simple and so what? It is what it is and never mind that nasty little prosey, and actually rather judgemental, word - fie, it is not worthy of you. He was offering a truth from his own soul and the image he captured gives utterance to this. Forsooth, you just have to look at his eyes to know that we are not in the school of Gradgrind here. His insight can indeed be applied universally, but not as fact - as vision.

I am not going to define the word poetry. "Heightened language" is about as far as I'll go towards that and language, as I've said, may be more than just words, written or spoken. But I like
"The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven; and, as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet's pen turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name."

Where all systems fail, Mr. Anorak, poetry may begin, and often does, when everyone has gone home tired of the party or the staged event falls apart. If this were poetry, though, it would be be bad because I am talking in generalities and poetry loves the particular.

It is too late again, and I have no popcorn to graze on.

Your country needs you, TPE, just want to leave you with that image, the big Lord Kitchener finger of fate pointing straight at you. Poor pay, no pay at all and everyone misunderstands you but you do get to see the world, and you get to save it. I know you are going to pounce on that word, so don't - I know you know exactly what I'm talking about (don't you?)

tfi Wednesday, comrade - be of good cheer.

tpe said...

Yay. You are clearly a technological genius, Signs, and your link worked like a dream. And it looks so professional, sitting all blue there, underlined, smartly offering nothing less than immediate teleportation (I was there, I swear it) to another time and place. Thrilling. It's not just that you succeeded, you excelled. Do it again, do it again....

Now, I'm wondering what the best way to go about this might be. I think I'll just get all the stuff we can agree on (bo-ring) out the way first, so that we can quickly concentrate on taking our first steps towards bitter and eternal enmity etc (the good stuff, in other words.)

1) The insight of your Plastic Bag Guy (PBG) cannot be applied universally as fact - agreed.

2) You are not going to attempt to define the word "poetry" - agreed. (A sensible move, if I may say so.)

3) The Shakespeare stuff you brought to the bloodbath is really beautiful. It feels vaguely familiar, Signs, but I can't quite place it. I'm trying not to google every single quote or reference I'm offered these days, however, and my clever guy persona - the one I have been so carefully building this last year or so in The Internet - is taking a real pasting as a result. Very, very beautiful, though. (And quite helpful, too, in the scratching of an itch kind of a way.)

4) You have no popcorn to graze on - agreed.

5) My country needs me - oh, most definitely - but not as much as the world.

Phew. That's all the love and harmony used up, then. Let's fall out....

Where to begin? We'll start with the word "overly".

It seems that you maybe disagree a wee bit with my use of "that nasty little prosey and...judgemental word". Fair enough, I suppose. I don't necessarily agree with your judgments on the word, nor with your judgments on my controversial use of it. I've not really been convinced that it matters, though.

Besides, I'm reasonably sure that my use of "overly" was both perfectly careful and correct. It formed a super-critical part of my (initial) response, oh yes indeedly. If PBG's insight had, in fact, merely been optimistic and simple - as you seem to suggest - then yes, absolutely, I would have felt no discomfort whatsoever. But it wasn't. Not from where I'm standing, anyway.

For my own (very personal) tastes, it was overly optimistic and it was overly simple. (You can replace "overly" with "immoderately" or "needlessly" in your mind's eye, Signs, if you're starting to get a headache.)

There is just no way for me to know how PBG ever felt himself qualified to ascribe benevolent sentiments to wind. And then, by extension, to the forces at play within nature, to the forces at play within everything. As a poetic endeavour? No problem. As a guiding principle and revelation? Problem. As an intended universal vision for one and all? Serious, serious problem. It seems, at best, like a guess. And it seems, at worst, like wishful thinking and an overtly dishonest and distasteful repudiation of the lives and suffering of others. I don't feel drawn towards such an outlook.

(I must admit to clapping inwardly at the line "there's so much beauty in the world, that sometimes I feel I can't take it," however. This hit home.)

Anyway, it's all very well being enchanted and enthralled, to delight in the simple majesty and seemingly inter-connected harmony of nature (I'm using "nature" as a sort of catch-all description, I'm afraid, although I realise that it's less than satisfactory) - and I find myself doing this a lot. A lot, Signs. Perhaps weirdly, I can draw great comfort from knowing my place and feeling entirely insignificant. Small, truly, is beautiful, in these circumstances, because if I'm so small and insignificant - and I am - then I need to try really hard not to laugh at the microscopic nature of my problems. It helps, sometimes.

But, and bear with me please - this is a long answer, I'm sorry - it is only really the use of the word "benevolent" which bothers me so much. I would need to be shown the benevolence present in a tsunami killing hundreds of thousands. I would also like to be shown at which point this benevolence kicks in as the the elements combine to starve and kill millions, in an agonisingly slow death of pure despair. Can you show me? Can you pinpoint the benevolence, Signs? Can PBG? If not, why is it I should feel inclined to accept (what seems like) only a partial view of "nature"?

If we must assign sentiment to wind, say - and yes, why not, it's good fun - then why overlook this capacity for mayhem, catastrophe and murder? I don't blame the wind, you know, I just don't see why I would ever feel compelled to limit its well-documented scope for killing and then sugarcoat these "intentions" as "benevolent". Who, really, is served by this partial (and misleading?) definition of the works and wonders of nature?

I prefer nature in all its demented glory and feel no need to draw back from saying that it can periodically behave like a vindictive and ruthless bastard of a killing machine. Do you think that wind thinks twice before shattering the lives of shack-dwellers? I don't. Show me the benevolence in these killings, Signs, and then you, me and PBG, may very well set up home together.

You say: "He was offering a truth from his own soul".
I say: "No, with respect, he was doing no such thing. He was offering his truth from his own soul. You may or may not share his conclusions - I've no argument with that, either way - but I would need a lot more convincing and I certainly don't share his truth (although I happen to really like it on a few levels - however contradictory this may seem.)

You say: "His insight can indeed be applied universally, but not as fact - as vision."
I say: "No, in fact, it can't even be offered as that, because I, for one, reject it. The very best you can hope for - and these are super good odds, Signs, so I would take them and run - is universality minus one. Me. And that, however petty it may seem, makes the application of this vision slightly less than universal (to the tune of this one implacable dissenter, at any rate.)

Like I say, his version of truth appeals on a great many levels, but I feel it's likely I would always come to my own, rather different, conclusions. Not that I would ever believe (or declare) myself to be the holder of any particular truth, mind you. I would miss searching and thinking too much. But that's okay, too, I think, no?

God damn it. I've barely even touched the surface, Signs. It is too huge. I've tried to eliminate waffling (with only partial success), but this has the unfortunate effect of making certain passages seem rather cold and unfriendly. It's dreadful trying to be all clever and serious. How do those intellectual boffiny guys ever make any friends?

I'm going to lie down.

Comradely hug to you, Signs (with a dagger pressed gently against the small of your back - just, you know, in case.)

TPE

Reading the Signs said...

Is this a dagger which I see before me, TPE? Guns, daggers - whatever next? And me but an honest Signreader, mercy me (heh heh)! If you don't want to join the army I wonder if you might consider the Civil Service because blimey, the 'i's would be dotted and the 't's would be crossed. But on the other hand you'd probably also cut it as a prosecution lawyer, and I wouldn't want to be the poor sod of a defendant. No siree. But as I'm in the witness box here defending poor whatsisname against the charge of presenting personal insight as universal truth, let me cut to the chase, put my money on the table and say that I think you appear to have a problem with the idea of the Pathetic Fallacy.

Well, you wouldn't be the first. It's a poet thing, Mr. Gradgrind, especially the lyric sort and you just have to, you know, make allowances. Poetic license. Now it gave me such a thrill to do that smart blue link thing, I just have to see if I've done it again.

Reading the Signs said...

Oh, this is brill, and easy, and here I was being all impressed with you and Finlandia for all the techie expertise. Now tell me something else fun and techie I can do, please. It's only fair after I've given you Pathetic Fallacy.

It's a work of art thing, no? You can choose to enter into the particular vision offered by a piece of film, a painting, a poem - or choose not to. I prefer to do the former, to make believe, as it were. Because it's richer so. Nature has many faces, yes, and is red in tooth and claw. But I say the wind in the plastic bag, and the dance, may open into a particular kind of imaginative vision. Anything may, if we allow ourselves to look, or to be looked at.

It is still Wednesday, but I am about to turn into a pumpkin.

g'night, Comrade.

tpe said...

(Hi Signs, I'm just going to say goodbye up here, because I don't want to ruin the effect of my dramatic pay-off at the end of this letter. Word. So, I hope you're okay today, as every day, and that happy things hunt you down and maul you. Next time I'll write 200 words maximum, I promise. Only good things to you, RTS, I'll float by, spookily, tomorrow. Your tarnished guru, TPE)

Good evening, comrade (and defendant) Signs. Well done for ploughing through my immoderately long charge sheet. Sorry about that, but I couldn't seem to pare things down sufficiently and get to the point, any point. This affliction would mitigate slightly against my making the grade as a prosecution lawyer, perhaps, although the thought of a cape and a platform is arousing beyond all decency (which should answer your "dagger or gun" question, right enough).

I would never be able to say "I rest my case", though, and would instead be found droning on and on about the same subject as a procession of shoplifters and petty criminals passed before me, baffled to find themselves hectored about the stars and the trees by the law guy in the golden cape. Trials would collapse, Signs, and the guilty would surely walk free.

In your case, however, I'm hopeful that we can pass quickly to the verdict (burn her! burn her!) and then onwards to the sentencing stage. (burn her again! burn her again!)

Well, once again, the fetchingly underlined blueness of your (Pathetic Fallacy) link should certainly count in your favour, Signs, as the judge considers the application of appropriate aspects of clemency. (just burn her legs? Just burn her legs?)

Unfortunately, the link itself - or, more specifically, the excitingly reckless nature of the words which came immediately before it - was a mistake. A huge mistake.

You said: let me cut to the chase, put my money on the table and say that I think you appear to have a problem with the idea of the Pathetic Fallacy.

I say: let me cut to the chase, put my money on the table and say that I think you appear to have a problem with your eyesight.

Oh Signs, did you not see it? Whilst attractively wondering about PBG's habit of attributing recognisably human traits to the elements, to nature, toeverything, I wrote that "as a poetic endeavour" I had "no problem" with this habit at all. I felt I was very clear about that.

I've never really had a problem with Pathetic Fallacy and only take issue with the restrictive and (to me) prescriptive labelling that PBG seems to feel so sure about. The wind may indeed seem frequently benevolent and nature, as a whole, might too. This, however, to my way of feeling, does not mean that wind is benevolent per se, and it certainly doesn't mean so for nature - let alone the occasionally benevolent-seeming scheme of things. Why would it? And why settle for one type of wind? This, if anything, is a rejection, surely, of our sparkly poetic heritage?

And don't you be trying to close the doors of your imagined club in my face, you poet-bouncer, you. There is no exclusivity here, no door policy. No door at all, in fact, and even if there was I would simply drift through it, refusing to recognise your right to set the rules or to claim this shared space for marauding gangs of poets. "It's a poet thing, Mr. Gradgrind, especially the lyric sort and you just have to, you know, make allowances." No, it isn't, and no, as it happens, I don't.

It's a human thing, Mrs. Magoo, and one that I am perfectly capable of understanding and embracing without living with my head up my arts. And the allowances are not mine to give, really, because I wouldn't be setting restrictions on others in the first place, only upon myself.

I just feel slightly differently, I suppose, that it's not as straightforward as being something that one simply chooses to enter into, or chooses to leave well alone. This feels too rigid for my tastes - staged, even - and doesn't really reflect my own experience.

Not, of course, that this in any way matters, I just find it quite interesting that your take feels quite black and white. Where is your grey, Signs?

Sometimes choice has had absolutely nothing to do with it (for me). I drift between the states. "You can choose to enter into the particular vision offered by a piece of film, a painting, a poem - or choose not to." Sure. But what if someone expressly chooses not to enter into the spirit of a thing on any given day, for whatever particular reason, and yet finds himself there all the same? What then? (and don't you dare say "medication", you cheeky poet.)

And whilst happily lost in the affirming chatter of a mildly grumpy wind, is it so wrong to embark on a fact-finding adventure? Where is the benevolence, my grumpy windy friend, a lot of guys say that you're made of it?

Excuse me whilst I blow your house down.

Reading the Signs said...

Dear TPE, this is going to sound really lame, and I'm sorry and all, but I have lost the thread and do not understand what your question is. So I don't know what to say. But anyway: I do think it is a poet thing - a poetic conceit - and something there can't really be too much debate about because, well I'm going to repeat myself, it's a personal vision that he is sharing. (Why do you call him PBG btw?). Lets get away from him and wind and natural or unnatural disaster for a minute and think about chocolate instead. I am sitting with an exquisite bar of Montezuma (or even that new black Galaxy, yes that would do), and I say to you, "TPE, when I first tasted this it was as though the chocolate was imparting some profound truth and I understood for the first time that the sweet and the bitter must coexist if we are to enter into the full richness of human experience." Of course you can argue with me until you are blue in the face that there is no earthly or any other reason why the two must coexist, and that you yourself (let us say for the sake of argument) have achieved complete oneness by ingesting a bar of Belgian choc or even a Barratt's sherbet fountain. And so on. Well we'd just have to agree to disagree, which is perhaps a bit boring but I don't see what else is to be done. My experience, my moment of epiphany, either speaks to you or it doesn't. Not locking you out, though. And I have no door policy. I find poets and poetry outside the walls, in unexpected places, or they find me. A club, though - even an imagined one - that would be nice. But would I want to join one that was prepared to accept me as a member? Perhaps, not being Groucho, or even Grumpy. I haven't found it. I do find people, though, from time to time, who feel kindred. It is sometimes a poet thing, but not always.

My house, as ever, made of straw. Easy to blow down and build again.

tpe said...

Oh, for pity's sake, Signs. If you have lost the thread and no longer know what I'm talking about, how on earth am I expected to have a clue? I was relying on you to make sense of me for me, so I'm afraid I can't really help you.

Looking back, though, it does rather seem like I was engaged at the very end in an artistically-licenced conversation with the wind and did not, in fact, ask you anything. Then the wind turned on me and said it would blow my house down. That's my reading of the situation, in any event, but I'm happy to be proved wrong. Hoping, even.

I'm working under tough conditions here, Signs, having promised myself (and you) that I would restrict myself to writing 200 words exactly this time. I probably shouldn't be wasting words saying this, however, otherwise I'll never get onto the chocolate stuff. It's a worry, certainly.

I just wanted to remind you, though, why my comments are suddenly much shorter - just in case you thought I'd gone in a huff and was cursing you secretly for something or other.

Damn. I can't believe I've used up my allocation already.

Reading the Signs said...

I trust your house is still standing, TPE. The winds around these parts have not felt entirely benevolent but appearances can be deceptive. And my house still stands, so - . Anyway, just to fill you in, we were talking about the weather, TPE, and how very cold it has suddenly got for the time of year. And we were talking about a club and whether we were in it or not. I really hope for both our sakes that we are not, but perhaps I shouldn't speak for you. For me, it would really be the last straw.

ttfn - may the wind be always at your back (LOL) :)))

Reading the Signs said...

Perhaps it's just

like this

Finlandia, Scandinavia said...

Right. Hello Signs, hello TPE in absentia, for verily he doesn't seem to be here at the moment. I have a feeling his computing powers are gone with the wind - given the recent high winds The British Isles and the (fine) Republic of Ireland have suffered from (as an aside: I learn from my mistakes and shall never, ever include the R. of I. within the B. Isles ever again, for fear of being nit-picked by the Master Nit-Picker of the Known Universe). I also have a feeling I am going to be long-winded in extremis, and that I have a very vague idea only as to what it is I came here to say (and that "boo!" of yours dated March 5th just had me jumping out of my skin, Signs. How the hell did you know I was going to be just there, innocently reading along, when you turned around and frightened me witless? You are spoooooooky).

Firstly, though, I must offer you, Signs, my double congratulations on your technical prowess. Your links are beautifully formed and - what's more - stunning, content-wise. I am totally blown away by this last one, the one above this. What a stunning thing in itself and how ├╝ber-clever of you to find it (did you use The Method, or did it just fall onto your lap like a ripe peach?).

I have (as you surely have noticed) been following this most interesting thread for days, although I haven't said anything because I haven't really felt all that clever like. But needs must, now that you two have both shut up, as I find it too uniquely wonderful that conversations on this level can happen between people anywhere and, I suppose I should add, on the internet, which also seems to harbour some of the flattest and most insulting exchanges (and worst spelling). I'm hoping that if I say things here you will both feel compelled to come back, and then perhaps I can sit again in the corner, mouth slightly open, staring in mute wonder at what goes on.

God, Signs, I warned you I was going to be long-winded. You said, "where language fails poetry begins" and your worthy opponent jumped on the fact that poetry, by most definitions, consists of language and hence constitutes, if you like, the umbrella organisation above poetry. I am in agreement with you both - like a true cowardly-custard Scandinavian fence-sitter - but, however. I would like to draw everyone's attention to the word fails. Where language fails, poetry begins (and forgive me, TPE, but I will put aside Signs' later claim regarding all systems, both for the sake of keeping this reply "shorter" and also because I'm not entirely sure I catch the full drift of what she means with all systems). I don't read the statement as excluding poetry from the field of language - I read it as a comment on the ultimate failure of language as a tool for expressing the unexpressable something, and that the refusal to stop at this failure may, if we're lucky, lead to what may be defined as poetry. If I may suggest an example or few... about a year ago, I saw a butoh performance which had a soul-shaking effect on me. I tried - VERY failingly - to describe the experience on my blog. If I were a poet, this effort at describing, trying, against all odds, to bend language into saying what cannot be said, might have turned out as poetry (NB I am not claiming it did, and would faint with shame if either one of you or anyone else thought that's what I am saying here). Another example would be Plastic Bag Guy, aka PBG, and his dance of the plastic bag - which, incidentally, I found a very beautiful thing too, the clip itself in the film, rather than his effort at putting to words the feeling it conjured up. But regardless of this, his effort - whether I myself agree with the sentiment expressed or even like his wording - could, under my reading of Signs claim ("language fails, poetry begins") be read as poetry. (And TPE - I appreciate Kevin Spacey's work too. I also liked the bit in the end when he, in his dying breath, harps on about the skin on his grandma's hands, and stuff. Lovely.)

Right here I must give another personal example of something, a similar nameless thing of no-language poetry. There is a scene in the Tarkovsky film Stalker where the lead man lands up lying, anguished, foetally curled up, in a river or similar. A black dog approaches from the distance, wading through the water, and finally lies down by his side. When I saw the film, this scene had such an effect of terrified, soul-shaking awe or bloody something ("language fails") it was touch and go I didn't emit a highly embarrassing primal wail of - for want of a better word ("language fails - again") religious-tasting fear and, and, and pleasure, right there in the cinema. For God's sakes, you know - for what is it really (and just in case you're not familiar with it, and also because it's beautiful, I have signed in with the best clip I could find in the archive of all human endeavour, youtube, although I wish there'd be one a little longer that would show a bit of the build-up to the scene)? Why, when it's only a man with cropped hair lying in a puddle with a black dog, did it fill me with terror, recognition, awe, something? There's no earthly reason for it to make me feel like God's finger (or Lord Kitchener's, I'm not fussed) had just penetrated my chest and poked me in the heart. Firmly. But it did. Now again, if I were a poet cetra, I might be able to fail more poetically to describe the experience.

And therein lies the truth of Signs' bold statement, to me - poetry is the beautiful failure to describe- in, through, with - language that which language cannot capture.

God help me but this has got to be the longest comment. I'm sorry Signs (if you're still with me down here, eight feet below my initial greeting) - and, like TPE notes in one of his comments, I feel like I'm only just starting to get somewhere, preparing the ground, as it were, for actually formulating A Thought. It would indeed be a fine thing, but maybe I'll not take up the pixel space the effort seems to require of me. To me, the rest of your debate seems to centre on TPE's refusal to recognise universal truths, his own or those of others, be they on the wind, the nature of language and poetry, benevolence, The British Isles, anything. TPE - out of everything I've said above, nothing should be interpreted as expressing anything other than a failed attempt at ruminating on an idea.

The one (personal) truth I am going to throw on the table here is non-controversial and non-debatable - I like you both an awful lot, and send you my best, this Palm Sunday, and always.

(teygrdah - tiger, da. The word verification creatures are going along the Russian thing I brought in here.)

Reading the Signs said...

Fabulous Finlandia - welcome, the wind-chimes in House of Signs make music to the breath from the far north. But listen: before we get down to Serious Business, and even if we don't, there is something I have to know: how is it that you appear to know exactly where your visitors have been in House of FomP and I never do? Sometimes the number of page views is registered but that's all. A visitor could have been anywhere and I wouldn't know. There are things you and TPE know and I don't (but don't tell him this please, one has one's Image to consider and for the purposes of our little debate it behoves me to appear all-knowing, if a little disingenuous) - and I would really like to be enlightened. I just said Boo! to you because I took a wild guess and hoped, naturally, that you might be looking here, to tell the absolute truth. And of course I do have spoooooky intuitions, don't doubt that for a moment. But I lack the ultimate knowledge.

I am not going to address the business of universal truths because I never meant to suggest that poetic insight offers this. Sometimes a poet has a huge bardic kind of voice that suggests that this is what is being imparted, but it still boils down to the poet's perceptions and apprehensions of truth. But lookee here, I know confirmed atheists who love particular poems by Rilke and Blake that nosedive straight into questions pertaining to the spiritual world, that utter what appear to be truths. We take a poet's vision for what it is, as we take PBG's wind-dancing plastic bags. They would, as you say, be good just as they are without his commentary, but he it is who has "seen" them and framed them and brought them to our attention - and not as some scientifically-based proposition, but as poetic insight. Sometimes things reveal themselves and open to what one might call spiritual illumination - spiritual because they speak of something beyond the mere stuff of which they are made or the context in which they find themselves. What is it about a man with cropped hair lying in a puddle with a black dog (lovely link btw, thank you) that makes you look and recognise yourself? No answer needed, I'm just saying. What am I saying? What is it in anything at all that gives us, for want of a better word communion, wherein we look and say, yes! I am that? We become whatever we really look at, I think, and then there is the possibility of a dialogue with self. So the benevolence that PBG apprehends in the wind is a substance that comes from his own deep soul.

Where all systems fail we may begin our own unique process of connection. And I am not sure that it is possible to argue about its correctness or otherwise.

But about that truth you threw on the table here, Princeling: I have another to add which is that I like you both an awful lot too and Hosanna to that on this Palm Sunday - to which the Word Ver Leprechauns wish to add boofp, which is WVL-speak for "and so say all of us".

Reading the Signs said...

TPE, Your powers are surely not gone with the wind? You can overcome this little blip, I am certain. You see the faith I have in you?

Anna MR said...

Verily, Signstress, it is way too late for me to get back to you on the Serious Business, so just as a piece of guesswork on the visitor issue: you are with sitemeter, I am with statcounter, and that, boringly, is probably the difference between what I know and what you know. Much as I'd like to claim I feel the movements of my visitors in my aura, or something.

(As for TPE, I would guess he uses his divine powers and second sight and just looks deep into the hearts of his visitors to know where they have delved.)

Night night for now, Signs, and hope the wind chimes didn't wake you. Mwah. More soon.