Finding words: a collection of poems with a critical preface
Bond, Patrick George
Finding Words: A Collection of Poems with a Critical Preface is a collection of fifty-five poems preceded by an introductory essay.\ud \ud The poems were all written in the period 2005 – 2011.\ud The critical preface is in four chapters. The first is in the form of a recollection of the circumstances of poetry in my early life. The second engages with the critical thinking of Geoffrey Hill. The third responds to an exemplary poem of John Clare’s The Midsummer Cushion period. The fourth introduces and places in context the poems of the collection, and experience of reading poetry aloud.\ud \ud Chapter One is a form of autobiography. It retrieves half-submerged fragments of the story of a British Colonial child in the 1950s, seeking out the texture and feel of various discontinuities including the move to the UK from Mauritius, the long-term illness and early death of my father, different languages in early childhood, Catholicism with a southern-hemisphere emphasis, and the growth of an intense dedication to poetry from the age of eleven.\ud \ud Chapter Two engages at length with the dilemma of an individual poetics which expresses itself in the form, ‘How do I understand the conversion of my experiencing into the experiencing of words?’ My practice of poetry is uncovered as both unconscious and sui generis. The root experience of finding words and forming poems is illuminated by engagement with the ideas of Geoffrey Hill, particularly the moral imagination as the formal creative faculty, words regarded as pledges and not signs, language that both redeems and betrays the intentions of the poet, and the analysis of grammar to reveal ethical processes. The ideas of phenomenologist, David Abram, are used to illuminate my consistent experience of wonder-in-nature, and processes of sensation and perception as part of the writing of poetry. The discussion returns to Hill at the point of a divergence from Abram on the nature of the imagination, and explores the implications of Hill’s rigorous criteria on solipsism, the ambivalent power of words, and the frailty of human attempts at communication. It ends with a brief discussion on therapeutic writing, and acknowledgement of Hill’s proposition of a theology of language as a means of grace.\ud \ud Chapter Three describes a poet, John Clare, with whom I have always had a powerful relationship, even though he is not a direct influence on the style of my poems. The chapter looks briefly at John Clare’s unusual literary status, to illuminate aspects of his standing as a poet. It enlists the help of an essay by the philologist, Professor Barbara M. H. Strang, who examines the linguistic characteristics of Clare’s poetry. It is argued that Clare’s poetry does not need punctuation or other editorial improvements. The semantic insights of Geoffrey Hill on poetry are applied to one of the major poems of the Midsummer Cushion, namely Shadows of Taste. Hill’s observations on ‘temper’ and ‘taste’ are linked to Clare via the hymns of the Wesleyan Methodists; and the elements of Clare’s linguistic mimesis of nature are elucidated, particularly his repeated use of the word ‘joy’.\ud \ud Chapter Four introduces the fifty-five poems, and discusses the processes of writing, revising, selecting and grouping. Major poetic influences are briefly examined, from the Gawain-poet to Basil Bunting, as well as the main features of the poems themselves, in particular the use of an alliterative pulse modelled on the poets of the fourteenth century. The chapter includes a brief reference to reading poetry aloud in small community groups, and the experience of reading John Clare’s poems outdoors in forests and fields.\ud \ud The thesis is an attempt to define a practice of writing poetry which has been largely instinctive and consciously personal. An attempt is made to sketch the fine boundary between a solipsistic self-expression, and the technical demands of a craft which has its roots in a poetic and cultural tradition of at least eight centuries.
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