note: locations

‘Not sure where I write the poems, but not in this room.’ – Simon Armitage

I’ve been looking at a lot of the Guardian’s Writer’s Rooms series today, partly because I’m suddenly very happy with my own writing room, and because I’m writing a dissertation that I currently have no interest in. The quote above is from the series; at first I thought it was kind of dissapointing – more than the obvious setup for novels (almost inevitably a desk and chair, with variations on longhand, typewriters and computers), I was curious where poems were made. The poem is not as fixed to practicality or (perhaps more importantly) income, and so the choice to write it in a specific place is a much more interesting disclosure.

But then, cleaning grease off a grillpan, the sentence came back to me with an answer – ‘not in this room.’ At the time, Simon was obviously talking about his office, but I think it applies to any room. Poems are not written in rooms; they are not written outside or inside…poems are written in movement, but even this has the limitations of a fixed idea. There is always movement involved, but it’s not an exclusive movement of the body or the mind, or the hand. It has as much to do with stasis as movement. Armitage’s comment – I would like to think he was aware of this – could follow him around the house: ‘no, not in this room…not in the toilet, not in the library either…not in this armchair…no, the garden isn’t the right place…,’ but by the end of this journey we could definitely have the roots of something to be written down.

With poems, the thought is both the first draft and the platonic Form of any poem; both the first idea and the unattainable image of that idea. The fine tuning goes as far backwards (through drafts as well as time and memory) as forwards.

I recently read the beginning of an article in Wire about hypnagogic pop. I can’t say it either. I saw on the cover: Emeralds, Zola Jesus, The Skaters (after whom this site used to be named…and is now the name of an increasing cycle of my poems); in the past year, these bands (among many many others) and their aesthetic have come to dominante a lot of my current listening, and it was interesting to see them grouped here. They have been grouped before, I guess, but not fixed by anything as concrete as a Wire article.

From what I remember of the first few paragraphs, the article suggested that these bands were informed by a halfdream memory of disney and almost in-uterous syaesthesia of pop music from childhood. Everything is loud and buried; the memories are the product of aborted psychoanalysis. By which I mean: their extraction doesn’t clarify the hazy image, it literally just makes it bigger. The way you click some pictures on the internet, and the ‘enlarged image’ is just a stretched distortion of pixels rather than a higher resolution.

I haven’t looked into the philosophy that the Wire mentioned yet (I love it when music is linked to philosophy or intellectualised, I just fucking love it), nor into any definition of ‘hypnagogic’ (not entirely sure of the spelling, either), but it seems to me that this is the way in which all poems are written. Even the most solid poetic forms, like epics and reinterpretations of epics, are the product of some peripheral experience of…what, exactly? Valour, grandeur, fairy tales, narrative, perhaps. Even translations – every translation hides and creates a bond between the translator and the translatee that we are almost too scared to explore for the unimaginable size of it. Our links to the subjects and objects of our poems are the beautiful-terrifying sublime of literature; the line breaks, metaphors, alliterations are the intricate series of mirrors with which we glance at the surface of that specific landscape.


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