Tuesday, April 19, 1983

Third ear

I woke up at half-eight, got up at ten and, after buying a ‘paper, went with Shelley, Rowan and Graeme to a poetry lecture. Like Shelley and Penny, Rowan stayed down in Watermouth over Easter, although she was the only one who got a job, looking after kids. She told us lurid tales about masturbation, etc.

The lecture, “Poems,” by Prof. R. D. Reynolds, was quite interesting. He used the eighteenth century critical concept of the “conceit” to talk about a selection of six poems by Wordsworth, Dickinson Donne, Hopkins and Ferlinghetti. He described the poetry of Dickinson, Donne and Hopkins as “conceited” because of their use of extended analogies, which in Donne’s case is done almost solely for their own sake.

He contrasted this with Wordsworth’s rustic simplicity of style and made an interesting point about the work of Ferlinghetti and other such poets—if poetry is expressed in so simple and direct way that it’s virtually the same as everyday language, then what’s the point in writing poetry? Does this view invalidate Beat poetry? Perhaps the skill of poetry involves saying things in a spontaneous, perhaps even colloquial way, but yet still managing to retain unfamiliar elements of expression so that the poem retains credibility as a poem?

Afterwards, I collected my grant cheque and went into Watermouth with Shawn and Stu. Shawn's still going out with Penny and they visited one another over the holidays. Maybe because of Shawn’s influence, Penny now wears denim jackets with the arms cut off. I bought a Fall 10” and two LPs by The Third Ear Band, one of which has tracks from Polanski's Macbeth. I blew a total of £13 on these and couldn’t help the gnawing sense of guilt at my extravagance. As I write this the witches scene track drawls away discordantly in my ear.

This narrative is so imprecise and flawed; if I’m to keep to my original and declared intention to not let things vainly expend themselves and slip into emptiness unrecorded, then I should perhaps now be moving from a merely factual account and deeper into other, inner realms?

As I sat cramped and awkward in Sunday’s southward-speeding coach I began to appreciate how clumsy and (somehow) secondary is the written word, especially prose. It feels less expressive and less connected to reality than the media Lee is experimenting in. Words are too awkward to try and convey the immediacy and reality of outer, physical events and objects, let alone the inner world of emotion and feelings: these are vaguely felt at the best of times and virtually impossible to translate into specific words and sentences. Which is perhaps why so much of what I write here is badly put together. I try so hard to convey the sight and sound and smell of what I see and hear and feel.

 Lee comes down for his interview today and I’m meeting him at 9.40 pm in the bus station.

I still have my vaguely come-upon convictions to pursue a different way to the one I've been pursuing, but it’s easy to make these resolutions in the tranquility of home, a different matter altogether when it comes to concrete deliberate acts and ways of living. I still aim to get about more, get out into the countryside, away from this closed self-conscious environment, so that my circumstances are put into some kind of perspective and I'm given a truer picture.

But what does this ‘new way’ involve? I wish I knew. I’ve had a sort of unspoken idea that I should distance myself from the corridor activity, but I don’t know what I hope to achieve with this. I have to do something and I'm almost afraid that I’ll let things stay as they are and continue living the same slovenly weak existence . . . I can’t go on as I've always done, and I’ve always known that.

It’s just that this conviction has emerged more strongly now than at any other time.

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