Some things I think about poetry



When you love someone, you are prone to talking about them a lot, or talking about the peculiar specifics of how you love them. This can get very dull. If you want others to love as you do, you don’t describe the fascinating way his earlobe turns in the sunlight, you don’t talk about the in-joke you and she shared the other night (that no one else will ever understand which is why you love each other), you don’t try and explain the way their synapses fire — you just say that you love, and then talk about other things in a loving way. Then others will wonder, what is this thing that can fill you with such earnest love!

The problem is, love is selfish, and you don’t often want others to love as you do, do you, in case they take the thing you love away from you.


My friend runs a free life drawing class. She says life drawing is not taught much in art colleges any more. She thinks this might be because life drawing is a process and a discipline, rather than something which ever produces results in itself. This makes it more boring to teach or learn, maybe, than teaching exciting ideas or learning interesting concepts. There might be a connection here to the way art has moved away from long-term practise and towards finding the one great idea, moved from discipline to concept, moved from starting at the beginning to starting at the end.


There are two dominant schools of acting, two contesting theories about what acting should be. One says that acting should be representational: we should show emotions and mental processes and at the same time initiate and invite detached criticism of them. The other says that actors should live through the experiences of their characters somehow, so that the audience is immersed in what seems like real action, or is observing excitedly as through a peephole.

Actors in both schools, whether they’re naive beginners or complacent experts, have a tendency to fall into two traps: they forget what kind of acting they’re supposed to be doing in any given performance, and they enjoy performing the idea of their acting so much that they forget to exercise and develop their ability to do it well.


As any neurotic like me can tell you, the really obnoxious aspect of neurosis is its reflexivity: anxiety isn’t so much a vicious cycle as a vicious mobius strip — you’re wandering down a particularly wrenching mental path, and you think you’ve tortured yourself into some newly horrible pattern of thought that’s the reverse or  reaction to where you’ve started, but you end up exactly where you started again without knowing how you could possibly have got there. Anyway: neurotics get neurotic about their neurosis; we beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up; we get anxious that we’re being too anxious; and, above all, we talk endlessly and boringly about the precise details of these processes.

When I come to seek help from someone else, if I try and explain this whole thing, this whole cycle/spiral/strip, I’m screwed, because they won’t know where to begin. I don’t need to describe everything I’ve thought or experienced. I just need to describe that pain I’m feeling right now, the confusion I’m currently suffering. That can be communicated clearly.


Poetry is a lover, a drawing, a performance, an anxiety.

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