I am taking a writing class from a local author who is very talented and accomplished. The experience of offering my written thoughts to face-to-face feedback has been very, very helpful on a personal level and with the writing process itself. This teacher has helped me to “pay more attention” to what I am writing and how I am writing it,” and to “pay more attention to the prospective reader.” That is a subtle but very important shift in focus. Here I’m going to share my first effort in this class, after revisions made as a result of the feedback from the class and from my wife.
“Grab a word and pull on it. Grab a word and pull on it.” Hmm??? So to
make a poem, all you have to do is, “Grab a word and pull on it? Huh?” He
pondered about this for days but just had trouble wrapping his head around the
notion of “pulling” on a word. “Words just don’t get ‘pulled on’” he told himself.
“A word is a word is a word and that is the end of it.”
Now the notion of writing a poem sounded pretty cool but about the only thing
he could manage was, by his own admission simple teen age doggerel. So pretty soon he just forgot the idea and busied himself with his thirties and forties; though even then he was often teased with the notion of “grabbing a word and pulling on it.”
But then “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” began to work their magic in his life and he began to “get it,” to “feel it” and found that poetry was worming its way into his heart. Sure enough, just as T. S. Eliot told him the week before, words do “break, slip, slide, perish, decay with imprecision, will not stay in place. He realized that this internal chaos that Eliot was describing was the subjective rush of words being “pulled on,” and torn apart, allowing them to burst and meaning begin to flow. “Sounds like an orgasm,” he thought.
However, this literary tumult he was experiencing went much deeper than mere
words. He often felt he was swimming in the aether, that he had lost his grounding, that nothing was certain any longer. He drew upon linguistics to facetiously describe his anxiety to some of his friends…those who might be familiar with Derrida…announcing with feigned desperation, “My signifier is floating. My signifier is floating. Help! Help!” Yes, subject-object distinctions were not as pronounced as they used to be as poetry had lured him into its murky, mysterious depths where only metaphor was to be found as an anchor; and with the metaphor the signifier is always apt to float away to points unknown.