I've just had a couple of poems accepted by Ink, Sweat and Tears. If you'd be so kind as to click on this link and have a wee read at them I would be most grateful. I'll wait.
Good. Now, let me tell you something about them:
Truth's Last Gasp
This poem was written following a meeting with a psychologist almost two years ago. Now, I think I might have mentioned this before but I'd just like to state again for the record that I like talking to psychologists. I've met with four different ones in my life (all women coincidentally, which helps) and each in their own way has been fascinating to talk to. As for how much help they've been I can't really say. Only the last one however actually inspired any poetry, two actually, 'Truth's Last Gasp' and 'Penis Envy' which was published in Gloom Cupboard back in May 2008. I'll tell you a bit about that one after I've finished with the first poem.
I can remember exactly where the first two lines of 'Truth's Last Gasp' came from. I made a statement to the effect that breathing meant nothing, i.e. it's an autonomous function that we have little real control over. She retorted that breathing meant everything because without it we would die. Touché, Dr Simpson! But that's it. And I'm only guessing now that what I meant was that breathing is an autonomous function because I can't actually remember what I was thinking at the time. I can only remember the two lines of the conversation but nothing to put them in context. What I can say was that it was one of those conversations where we batted ideas back and forth at each other to see who might trip the other one up first. A bit like the verbal 'tennis match' in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Fifteen-love to the good doctor.
I do know in one of our conversations she had been encouraging me to try breathing exercises. She was not the first. My best friend's girlfriend tried that on me when she stayed with us in 1979. Relax, Jim, God damn you! She was training to be an occupational therapist and I didn't mind her practicing on me although I could have been far more cooperative. Never did see any raffia all the time she was with us though. Maybe they don't do that any more.
This is a particularly interesting poem because it's the first time I've actually deliberately written a breath into a poem. To read
Breathe. ( ) Eventually
it will all become clear.
you really need to inhale in the space provided and I find I actually take quite a deep breath even when reading the thing in my head.
I have a problem with monotasking (yes, it’s a real word) or to be more accurate I have a problem not multitasking. Life is so short. For example, the last time I actually sat down and only listened to music was when I put my back out a couple of weeks back and that was because I was lying flat on my back and could do nothing else bar listen to the TV and that gets old quick. I've never attempted meditation either. What a waste of time! Just think about all the stuff I could be doing instead. I'd have the screaming ad-dabs trying to even relax enough to think about meditating.
However, IF I could manage to do the breathing exercises my doctor suggested maybe I might be able to gain some insight into this breaking malarkey. Till then it'll just have to be another task on the list and for the record, while writing this just now, I'm also listening to Brahms' Schicksalslied - Op.54, transferring files between computers and breathing.
Oh, and if you've not worked it out, the 'not breathing' bit either means you're dead or holding your breath. You can't do both at the same time although I suppose if you want to be awkward one could die whilst holding ones breath.
This one only appeared in the print journal so I'll reproduce it here for you:
The girl who lives next door is sad.
She lives on her own
and is probably a lesbian.
We have only her sadness
as proof and the
fact she drives an
The car is fire engine red,
a two-seater and
purrs like a cat.
The girl next door is plain and short.
I don't know her name.
She looks like a fourteen year-old boy,
a sad fourteen year-old boy,
at least I was.
I would not have
been sad if I'd had that
red sports car.
I sometimes wonder what Freud
might have had to say
about all of this.
Monday, 24 December 2007
This wasn't as a direct result of any particular conversation about my manhood rather it was more a matter of circumstance. Talking to psychologists always stirs up a lot of stuff in my head. I don't have a great knowledge of the subject. I can chuck around a few names and make myself sound like I know what I'm talking about for ten minutes but that's about it. Despite that my writing has always leaned heavily on pop psychology.
The poem takes truth as a jumping-off point. Our next-door neighbour is gay at least when you add up all the facts about her she's got to be gay although the very first time Carrie saw her – and that would be for about twenty seconds the first day we came to view the flat – she said: "She's gay." I've never had a conversation with our next-door neighbour on the subject – I mean how does one broach the subject? – but it's certainly never bothered me.
Anyway our next-door neighbour lived alone and used to drive this pokey wee car, black and uninteresting, a Fiat Uno or something of that ilk – I really can't remember. It kind of went with her personality because she was very quiet and it was hard to get much more than the odd slightly self-conscious "hello" out of her. And she never smiled. Never. She looked in desperate need of a good hug and probably a good seeing-to, too but let's just focus, folks.
Then one day a red sports car appeared outside our flat and Carrie and I wondered who it belonged to. Within a couple of days we knew – our dour little neighbour. Okay, it wasn't a Lamborghini or anything but it was still a babe-magnet. And sure enough, within a matter of days (I jest not) the babes began to appear and okay they weren't all six-foot tall stunners (actually none of them were six-foot tall stunners) but there was now a steady stream – okay, a trickle – of women arriving and departing in the red sports car. And then do you know what? Our dour little neighbour learned how to smile. A delicate little smile it was – it looked almost embarrassed to be out in public – but it was a smile. In time, and not much time I have to say, one of these lassies became a regular feature and they've now been a couple for a good few months. And she is so much happier. I sometimes hear them going into their flat across the hall and they're laughing. It's quite lovely really.
So, the poem is based in truth. As a fourteen year-old boy I'm afraid I was far more interested in expanding my knowledge of classical composers than I was in cars. Sure, I collected them when I was a kid. In fact I actually stopped collecting the year before Hot Wheels came on the market which I regretted but there was no going back. Our next-door neighbour does not look fourteen though. She could pass for someone in her late teens from a distance – she is small and slight – but not up close I'm afraid.
What I did note when I saw that car and who owned it was a tinge of jealousy. And, for the life of me I couldn't actually tell you what I was jealous about. Really! I've never been into cars. I've bought what I could afford purely with the object of getting from A to B safely and that was it. I remember once I got a new car and someone at work asked me what kind it was. "A red one," was my response not because I was being facetious but simply because I couldn't remember the make. It was actually a Talbot Samba, definitely not a babe-magnet by any stretch of the imagination.
The second poem that IS&T picked was a quicky I wrote after watching a programme about the history of 20th century classical music narrated by Simon Rattle. According to Rattle, fellow conductor André Previn once asked the composer Olivier Messiaen about a rehearsal performance of his Turangalîla Symphony. Messiaen confusingly replied: "Just play it a little more orangey-green." Messiaen suffered from a condition known as sound → colour synesthesia and you can read an interesting article about how it affected him here. Synaesthesia is a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. In other words people with Messiaen's condition perceive music as colours. There are other kinds, e.g. lexical → gustatory synesthetes taste words. I wonder what flavour this essay might be?
My poem is quite simply a poetic extrapolation. I didn't start reading articles on the subject. It was not meant to be accurate, not in that sense. I had no idea if there was any form of synaesthesia where people experience emotions in terms of colour but it seemed a nice idea to play with at the time.
On doing some research for this post I did come across a condition known as emotion → colour synaesthesia which has been put forth as an explanation for some people's ability to see colourful ‘auras’ around their loved ones.