I’ve been following #NaPoWriMo this month and it’s brought me a lot of joy. Although I will only come out with a small handful of poems, rather than 30, I will have bankrupted myself on books by authors introduced to me by the interview series. Every word of the Kay Ryan, former US Poet Laureate interview was hilarious and illuminating. Like her assertion, when she was asked if she liked giving readings, that she liked reading her poems, but did not like listening to other people reading theirs. Or that, famed as she is for writing ‘short, skinny’ poems she once wrote a ‘two hundred line poem, just for myself. It was pure shit.’ This struck me too:
Thinking takes place in language, and it’s hard to say whether the language is creating the thinking or the thinking is creating the language. If I don’t write in poetry, in the profoundest way, I have no way to think.
Ocean Vuong was another great find. He has some really interesting thoughts about the way text speak has shaped language, and about the closeness of the ampersand to the real sense of ‘and’, especially in poetic language. another memorable interview was that with Li-Young Lee, who describes the three selves he wakes up with each morning; the self which apprehends the world as entirely ‘saturated with meaning and presence’, the self which can’t deal with that level of meaning and resists it, and the self which is trying to hear the poem that comes out of those conditions. I love that.
The prompt on Day 24 was to write an ekphrastic poem, based on a medieval manuscript illustration. I found this an interesting challenge, thinking as I have been about Ely Cathedral and the wool-churches and angel ceilings of the Fens. So here is my poem, perhaps I will give it more attention some day. It’s based on a medieval Psalter found in St John’s College library here. And then the poet for Day 26, Melissa Range, has written an entire book about the process of monastic bookmaking Scriptorium, so that’s another one for the Amazon basket.
I am starting to think about a collaborating I am planning with an artist, so it was interesting to attempt an ekphrastic poem. But that’s a post for another time.