Thursday, 19 July 2007

Writing in Kirkwall

3.30am Kirkwall Hotel, Orkney - thoughts while reading Seamus Heaney writing about Eliot.

And now I am reading words by Seamus Heaney (Finders Keepers Faber 2002). He is writing about the poetry of TS Eliot.

" ...Perhaps the final thing to be learned is this: in the realm of poetry, as in the realm of consciousness, there is no end to the possible learning's that can take place. Nothing is final, the most gratifying discovery is fleeting, the path of positive achievement leads to the via negativa..."

Seamus goes on to assert that Eliot forfeited his "expressionist intensity" when he renounced the lyric in exchange for philosophic song. Seamus suggests that the 'lyric' may even have renounced Eliot. He goes on to expound on the exchange of self knowledge for the renunciation of the lyric, and for Eliot, this proved to be maintaining a "strictness of intent" which allowed him to prove a truth. He showed how poetic vocation ( and you could substitute 'poetic' for 'creative') entails the disciplining of a habit of expression until it becomes fundamental to the whole conduct of a life. Disciplining the habit of creative expression until that becomes in itself fundamental to the creative person.

Eliot defines the auditory imagination as 'operating below the level of sense', but Seamus thinks it operates much more potently when the sounds are given audible expression. In CK stead's 'the New Poetic' he states that Eliot trusted the 'dark embryo' of unconscious energy. Stead reveals Eliot as a much more intuitive writer, "Eliot was a 'rara avis', one whole 'note' was uniquely below the common scale, a thin pure signal that might not wash genially across the earthly reaches of one's nature but that had the capacity to 'probe the universe of spirit as far as Pluto' - a very long way".

Seamus suggests that something fortifying can come from something so authoritatively unconsoling.

A lot of 'artists' set up a corroborative relationship between landscape and sensibility. For writers, the words on the page function in a way that is supplementary to their primary artistic function; they can have a window effect and open the blinds of 'language' on to subjects and places before or behind words.

The appeal is to the soul and actual physical representations are not necessary. The creativity produces an internalised landscape all of its own which feeds the inner space and is not meant to orientate in the external world, only the inner. The inner and outer landscapes are very separate and each needs navigation - only the external world is more urgent and obvious, the internal landscape can be overlooked.

We look to nurture the internal landscape with images, lyrics, poetry and music. Seamus suggests you need to build up a stamina in order to walk around the internal landscape, develop a vocabulary that helps you to go further from your anchor point, like in the external world we build up experience, a vocabulary of orientations points, habits of other creatures, observing the other forces, life forms interacting with us; without this knowledge we are helpless and in danger of injury or even death. We learn how to nurture ourselves in the external world, being fed by our own efforts and by others, clothed, loved - so all this is true of the internal landscape - there are many casualties.

Many of us are guides to internal landscapes, many of us are guided - we are all guides to somebody.

You need to be transformed in order to progress, coalescence together in groups is strengthening, each individual would need to correspond, to have a common connection to the internal landscape of the other. You also need to 'sing', to have your voice heard and reflected back to you. You need to see your internal world through the 'mirror'.

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