What makes this ‘real’?

By the time I finished the first version of the ‘Mitchell’ exercise, I think I’d already begun to anticipate the inversions I was planning. I didn’t necessarily incorporate them, but I did clarify my images in anticipation of turning them upside down. This is why the first is stronger, it is clearer in its progress, and is not so burdened by ‘ending’ or of tying things up at the end. There are small endings throughout.

The second version is quite nonsensical. I’ve been thinking about what Tina wrote to me in response to the last paragraph in Leaving Home, how it works poetically, but is also very real. I read ‘Life: Field Research’ to my friend Susie via Skype and her response hinged on the image that I started with, of the hands. There was something in this that she carried with her throughout the poem and it was through this that she traced her path. I really liked the way she described this kind of progress, path finding and reconnaissance.

In a way this situating of an image prepares the reader to flick back to the beginning once they have finished the first reading, maybe even just lightly, to glance at this initial image and identify why it was there, whether it leads in the right direction, or if it’s altered slightly on second look.

I’m always drawn to surreal images and word play, because of the disregard for logic they prompt, though not even I believe this neutrality and it is the logic that emerges anyway or via the reader, that makes the process interesting for me. I’m becoming more interested in bracketing the surreal or heightened poetic. To explain it’s kind of like how James George installs humour in his characters dialog and lets loose with language in his descriptions of the characters environment infused with their consciousness of it. So that’s one way of looking at it.

Part of what I’m trying to clarify is this sense of completion for the poem if I’m doing a monologue or a dialog piece, in prose or poetry. When is it finished? At which point has it conveyed enough so that the reader can comfortably glance back to the start and get their bearings, test their instincts and impressions, and feel like they already know the poem enough to ask it or themselves questions.

The ‘Mitchell’ exercise allowed me to write without making too much of a distinction between me as writer and reader, I was leaving myself clues and cornerstones which I could pivot off and return to. Cool.

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