Finding the words: ‘This is not what I meant at all’

I am delighted to welcome to my blog poet Adrienne Silcock who ponders on how poetry communicates.

Given that any poem is a communication (even if it’s to our own inner selves!) and many of us want to write something that someone else can read and enjoy, it’s surprising how difficult it can be to express a thought, even when we know exactly what it is. Isn’t that what Alfred J. Prufrock was indicating in Eliot’s famous Love Song – “That is not it at all, That is not what I meant, at all” ?

How often we come across a poem that seems far too simplistic, or that we simply don’t get. The poet knows what they are saying and no doubt there are complex thoughts behind either style, but we don’t receive the message. In order for the reader to reach the final line of a poem with a sense of satisfaction, there has to be a connection. They may not necessarily understand everything the writer is trying to say but will nevertheless be left with a feeling of comprehension. And from a writer’s point of view that has to be bull’s eye.

So as I edit that first precious draft which is the nugget of my poem, not only am I trying to grow the poem, but I also try to step into the reader’s shoes. How might a reader interpret this? What might a reader see? Will giving the words a specific poetic form aid understanding? Will the music of rhyme help? How much can I expect the reader to interpret metaphor without blatant hint? Is the idea clichéd? There are so many ambiguities in life, in art, in communication. If I can achieve with my poem a resonance, an emotional recognition where my reader understands my message, my human theme, then I feel that I have succeeded with my poem – even though the lines may be open to quite different interpretations. But it is a constant struggle.

These were the kind of thoughts which passed through my mind as I walked the wintry landscape of the Dordogne this January. And these are some of my poetic notes:

 

Dordogne haiku
Woodpecker hammers
high in the frozen forest
now silence echoes

 

Direction
If it’s pain you feel
when white egrets fly over
the brown field in winter,
then it’s not I who can explain
or understand.
We both watch, see the same thing
from differing directions,
the birds landing, settling upright
upon the dark earth.

 

 

Adrienne’s work has been published widely in the independent press. Her first novel Vermin (Flambard) was published in 2000. Her second novel Controlling Aphrodite was shortlisted for the Virginia Prize 2009. Her third novel The Kiss is published on Amazon. She has self-published two poetic sequences Flight Path and The Fibonacci Sequence. Mudfog published her poetry pamphlet Taking Responsibility for the Moon in 2014 and she is a featured poet in Arachne Press’ 2018 collection by six women poets Vindication.

Links:

Website: www.adriennesilcock.co.uk

https://arachnepress.com/books/poetry/vindication-poems-from-six-women-poets/

http://www.mudfog.co.uk/portfolio-item/taking-responsbility-for-the-moon/

For a copy of Vermin, please direct message me on Facebook, or see the links on my website.

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