Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Poetry: On surrender

A little old, but from Brian Eno and Grayson Perry's conversation in the New Statesman a few weeks ago:

Eno This is why the idea of surrender is so interesting to me, because surrendering is what we are most frightened of doing. Everything is telling you to stay in control. One of the really bad things that’s happened in the art world recently is the idea that a piece of work is as valuable as the amount it can be talked about. So these little pieces of paper you see beside every artwork, in every gallery: if you watch people, they look quickly at the painting, then they read for a long time, then look quickly at the painting again. The analytical mind always wants to say, “OK, I understand this. It’s no problem, it’s no threat.”

Which got me thinking: do we spend too much time and thought trying to understand and then explain why poems work? It's an itch no doubt many people have seen in workshops, shared in it too: a desire to get under the bonnet as it were, and try and find out - how did that thing have an effect on me? What were the patternings of language that meant that it could have that impact?

But does this, at the risk of sounding a wee bit too mystical, not inherently kill the mystery at the heart of a poem that truly transcends? In the rush to try and answer why, we can forget that it did. Perhaps we'd all benefit a little more from not letting in as much daylight upon the magic.



Blogger Pouillypants said...

Hello - I hope you don't mind if I comment with my (opposing) point of view. I have always loved working out what makes a poem tick, often because there is so much more there than I ever really thought about at first/second/third/fourth etc read. It was only by reading closely I could play with all the relationships between the words and the other words and the line breaks and the metre and the anything else (rhyme, allusions, anything) and really enjoy all the incredible things that were happening. For me, I suppose, it never killed off the mystery but showed me how much mystery there was; how amazing that these things (words) and this person (poet) could do all of this. It was still magical, maybe more so.

11:57 pm  
Blogger BetaRish said...

You're very welcome to disagree, of course! I understand the desire you talk about, to unpack and try and understand the mystery - and I'm glad that it doesn't kill it for you, but increase it. I guess that maybe my reluctance comes from seeing more academic circles, where dissection of a poem really can be like pinning the proverbial butterfly to the wheel, then wondering why it doesn't want to fly again.

9:40 am  

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