Monday, June 18, 2012

Balloons, gyres, orbits and snow globes

I have been writing fairly regularly over the past few years. As many writers know, the process doesn't just produce publishable or performable material (which is extremely lucky for me). The act of writing  is cathartic, allowing the release of emotional jetsam onto the page. (Performance has a similar effect, just more pronounced). Sometimes what is washed up is surprising. In this way, writing is also a learning process.

More frequent writing should be allowing me to develop a 'voice', one that explores several key themes that are important to me. At the moment, though, I am having difficulty distinguishing between a voice and a lack of imagination. Do repeating images indicate stale writing, or is each use of a given metaphor a new way of exploring a developing theme? I don't yet have an answer.

Regardless, it is interesting to find the same common images and themes in the writings of others. How do others approach these images? Can I learn something about myself by how others use them?

One image I seem to keep returning to is the circle. I have used orbits, ellipses, swings, roundabouts, centres, concentric circles and curves in many of my poems. I often picture balls, balloons and planets. Usually, I think of the circle as something that contains an idea or feeling, while keeping some separation from the centre (usually me - my poetry tends to be CJ-centric) and the circumference or the orbiting object. I like the idea of overlapping circles and the ambiguity of non-straight lines.

Recently, I have read (or re-read) other poet's use of circles.

Last Wednesday was the anniversary of William Butler Yeats' birthday, which encouraged me to return to 'The Second Coming'.  In this poem, Yeats uses the circle as a metaphor for control that is being lost:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
 I wonder if my use of circles indicates some subliminal desire to keep control?

In another recent reading, I found repeated use of circular imagery that is closer to my own writing. (This is probably the only attribute of similarity between this piece and my poetry - the poem is a work of brilliance). Joel Ephraims (I can't find him online, other than Facebook) won the 2011 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for his poem 'Rock Candy'.

His poem is a collection of events in the life of a relationship. Reading it brings image after image to the mind, much like the way I imagine having 'your life flash before your eyes' would feel. Not all of the images are directly linked, and some are confusing, but it conveys a faithful representation of the memory of a relationship. I haven't fully unpacked the poem yet, a true sign of good poetry - something that rewards with repeated reading.

'Rock Candy' contains images of moons, planetary orbits, balloons, horoscopes, speedometers, clocks, hoola hoops and snow globes. Throughout the poem, the circling metaphors point to the passage of time, imply a certain inevitability of change while also hinting at cycles and repetition.

Both of these poems have opened up the circle, so to speak, and encouraged me to look at other ways to use the image. They also invite me to look deeper and see if there is more to the way I already use the circle as a metaphor. Perhaps I can play on those deeper meanings and bring them closer to the surface for others to see.

Oh, and finally, have you read a better fragment of a poem than this:
  having a girlfriend is like having  a basketful
of  lemons,  glances,  and lavender
  curls .

1 comment:

  1. You should also check out Walt Whitman, "Sparkles from the Wheel", for a poem about a spinning circle.