2014 blew in on a white wave of rage and frustration. All the clichés of New Year pulled down and trampled. So I am sad and then – aha- I am liberated. This morning, waking up tired and heavy I have saved up reading the Anne Carson Poetry Society lecture until today. I am so glad that I did this because even its title, “Stammering, Stops, Silence: On the Methods and Uses of Untranslation” is like a poem that I need to read. It falls into my need like the silence that separates a stone, or the voice of a bird opening the gates on silence and meaning, and here of course I am remembering ‘On a Raised Beach’ by Hugh MacDiarmid, the ever questioning voice of W.S.Graham asking ‘Where is the language taking us to,’ asking us to look to speak ‘on the other side of silence’. There’s been a lot of talk about silence recently, I just caught the end of a discussion on Woman’s Hour yesterday – and for me it does pose that question that I think lies underneath what Anne Carson is saying – or should one say, stammering, about language and words.
The new Quaker Anthology published by Indigo Dreams is called ‘A Speaking Silence’ and it fits into the ‘on the one hand’ and ‘on the other hand’, of Holderlin’s conundrum with which Anne Carson ends her lecture. The anthology both celebrates silence and gives a voice to me. A friend read out the poem ‘Mosedale Meeting’ at his meeting on Sunday – he found another poet in the anthology was also present; the silence ebbs and falls. Virginia’s metaphor of the waves containing forward and backward movement that allows the silence, Eliot’s still place ‘at the still point of the turning world’ ….. ‘both a new world/and the old made explicit’. Anne Carson talks of ‘catastrophising’ by blasting through language and finding the untranslatable, the silent, potent meaning that lurks beneath cliché and description.
A lot of the writing I have been doing lately has been engaging with catastrophe. I find certain images rising up and demanding to be acknowledged under the skin, etched on the bone. Earthquake and tsunami have been two overwhelming experiences that have taken my thinking about living and being into different dimensions; I think I am just beginning to realise that this is, perhaps, what is driving my poems just now. This is a part poem – the kind that emerges as I write my journal, where words suddenly turn the prose into poem – askew, aslant? Not always; sometimes just simple attempts to express a truth. No resolutions for 2014 but a determination to keep on looking for that speaking space, that living silence that may be found on the other side of language.
I have come to this place where if you wake at four in the morning
a single car passes, everyday, clocking on. It is perhaps
the first and last car for many hours until the tractors
start their trundle down the muddy lanes.
And if poems should come, as they sometimes do,
suspended in that silence, then they slip out
easy as birthing a cow or lamb;
slithering into life, attempting to stand, to try out, staggering,
their place in the place of things.