I have been thinking a lot recently about the gap between what is expected of us and what we think of as the essence of who we are, especially when it comes to interacting with others in social settings. I have been pondering again the truth of what Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer presents in his mysterious poem of near-death, ‘Alone’.
The poem begins with the speaker skidding on the ice in his car at night, but ends with a kind of note-to-self which reinforces the need to ‘be alone/ ten minutes in the morning/ and ten minutes in the evening./ – Without a programme.’ Stripped of the identity- markers of name, job and family, the speaker becomes anonymous, waiting in silence for the crash he knows will happen.
Re-reading the poem recently has reminded me of an altogether different poem where the speaker disappears into the context being described, Ted Hughes’s ‘Go Fishing’.
I first heard the poem before I read it, on a cassette produced by Faber and Faber (a double-header with Paul Muldoon). ‘Go Fishing’ was the first in Hughes’s set-list. It is an electrifying performance, delicate yet somehow full voltage. The poem takes its energy from the imperative verb of the title, each stanza jolted both into and out of reverie by its first word in a mostly monosyllabic music: ‘join’, ‘lose’, ‘be’, ‘become’, ‘crawl’, ‘let’ and ‘try’:
Join water, wade in underbeing
Let brain mist into moist earth
Ghost loosen away downstream
Gulp river and gravity
These final two words are delivered by Hughes as though he is trying to snuff out a candle with nothing more than a whisper. The poem is, of course, nothing to do with fishing, and everything at the same time. Far from a mere description of activity, it is a meditation on that rare dream-state psychologists call ‘flow’, a word the poem unashamedly uses. Like Tranströmer’s speaker grappling with his steering wheel, time seems to slow (‘The seconds grew – there was space in them –’) to the point where ego, identity and the outside world ‘dematerialise’.
I wonder if I am prepared to make that my goal in my writing and blogging this year, to vanish, vanquishing my need for external approval as I go, leaving only the effort of utterance behind:
Crawl out over roots, new and nameless
Search for face, harden into limbs
Let the world come back, like a white hospital
Busy with urgency words
Try to speak and nearly succeed
Heal into time and other people
Another little beauty, as always, Anthony. You’re a star. I love both poems you mentioned.
And your blog echoes thoughts I have been having lately: noticing myself how difficult it is as a blogger to walk that fine line between the personal that includes the transpersonal, so that readers can experience an individual behind the words but focus on the words as signposts to something larger and maybe more universal (hopefully!), and the merely egoic, self-referential and opinionated. Thank you for your reminder and your own lack of hubris.
As a friend says – NNTR – no need to reply. Roselle x
Thank you Roselle! High praise indeed. All best as ever and happy new year, Anthony
I echoe Rosele’s words about the challenge of being personal through our blogs, especially, and universal at the same time.
Beautiful choice of poems to illustrate this post, Anthony.
Thank you. High praise indeed. As ever, Anthony
Gone fishing?? Enjoy! Thank you for your many wonderful blogs and wise, wise words.
Time for yourself, your inner growth is essential. if you give too much of yourself away, how will you know who you are? Take the time that is yours without hesitation and enjoy it. There is nothing like being in the flow. I didn’t realise that had a specific meaning in psychology. As a new visitor here, and beginning to read your book I have been amazed by all that you have already achieved.
Thank you for your kind comment. I will take the time. I will. As ever with good wishes, Anthony
Reblogged this on JHStore.