Excerpt from a Reading Journal, 2011
I’ve done something strange. Or new. Written a prose-like poem and a poem poem about the same thing, using the same words. It’s an interesting dilemma, because I prefer the poem, but there are some parts of the prose that I can’t quite figure out how to put into the poem. Hmm.
These music poems are interesting, all second person … they sound strange as first person, but I wonder if a third person might be okay?
And then if I suddenly change the nature of the speaker, what does that mean – will people read two speakers, because the shift is so distinct? It’s about a way of address, really, I think. Because people can take on different tones, and that’s fine, but two, not quite named but kind of, in their manner of address seems more likely to be linked … or is it just because I’ve been thinking about Natasha’s speakers and the characters in The Butcher’s Papers. Would my shift in voice read like that? Or more like Glenn Colquhoun in The Art of Walking Upright, where he seems to have a speaker at times more present than others, but never quite there … although there’s Aunty Flu … and the rest of Nga Poupou.
Actually, is that one way of dealing with the many ‘yous’ I address? Name them or code them somehow. But then can I call them Leanne, Lew, Dad? And I tried that with the one about Keith, calling it Uncle, and I didn’t like it. So might I just slip their names into the poem, once, and then go with the you?
It’s like that conversation I had with Dad was both helpful and not … where he asked me who the ‘you’ was, and if it wasn’t about the reader knowing the you or the relationship between the speaker and the you, then what was it about. And that was good for thinking about, and made me realise that I haven’t really written anything this year that isn’t addressing someone, so there’s a real relationships piece going on here. But they’re my relationships, so what do I do with that, given they won’t have meaning for other people. So yes, it’s finding the depth and the common experience in the life and moment of the individual, which is something I didn’t quite manage to get my finger on at the start of the year when I was thinking about what I wanted to write this year, I don’t think. What happens when I make the address, though, is that it becomes a conversation between me (specifically, as opposed to the speaker) and whoever I’m addressing, rather than an observation and an address to/conversation with the reader. So I’m positioning the reader as something quite voyeuristic, in some ways, but on things that maybe aren’t that interesting.
So how does Glenn Colquhoun do it? He has vivid characters (made more so by photos?) and vivid relationships, and he’s exploring that whole cross cultural thing, which is the statement, the relevance beyond relationship and interaction. Playing God is more like ‘here are some musings’ and the address is indirect, towards the reader. Less sense of Glenn in the poems so much as a speaker.
Ever since I spoke to Dad while I was home, I’ve kind of fallen over in terms of writing. He made me very aware of having hit another point of needing to transition through something, but if I’m needing to get a little more explicit around the ‘you’, what does that mean for everything I’ve written so far? Will there be a quick fix, something I can just apply to the poems once I’ve figured it out? Seems unlikely, right?
He asked if the ‘you’ was because I’m lonely. And maybe it kind of is. The you is people gone for various reasons and in various ways: Lew and Leanne, who are busy and far away, Marilyn. It’s a way of having difficult conversations with people, or in the case of the Marilyn ones, having any conversation at all, and inventing, or reinventing that closeness. So I’m reading now with a mind to how other people do this. But it’s kind of unnerving, because it means I’m using this as a kind of therapy still … and I thought I’d moved through that, and yet here we are.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Briony Pentecost has just completed work on her folio for the MA in Creative Writing at the IIML. Toi toi and doctrine come from this folio, centred around the essence and music of every day moments.