Tag Archives: W S Graham

How do I read?

one of my notebooks

one of my notebooks

I jotted this question in my notebook a while ago. How do I read, in the widest sense? There is plenty of observation and advice on the art of writing, composing music, painting, photography, film. Less is said about on the art of reading, perceiving, interpreting, or how we reject or embrace what is expressed by others, and ourselves, even how we read our dreams.

I conclude there’s no difference between, let’s say writing, and reading, other than visibility, since any creative composition derives from an inner process of reading, the picking and shuffling of impressions into our frame of reference in relation to the larger myth of reality.

One could say the secret of being read lies in one’s talent and ability to read one’s inner psychic world, even when filtered through one’s most personal and eccentric imagination.

Long before communication was easily reproducible and reached greater audiences, people were reading the world, though only a tiny fraction of inspirations and inventions was circulated. Today’s media channels swamp us with communications. It’s confusing. We must choose.

In reading novels, I follow my intuition. The gimmick of an instant attention grabbing action scene puts me off. A proposal may be impossibly fantastic, but if I detect an authentic voice, rhythm and movement, I travel along. Invited into a mind, an atmosphere, a time, a place, I want to be absorbed in this other world and experience myself anew in a conflict between light and shadow from within the heart of another consciousness.

Whether meaning is intended or not, I read my own meaning into what has been imagined by another mind. An insight, a memory may surprise. Some books I treasure for one or two illuminating sentences, so I guess reading for me is a bit of a treasure hunt, which begs a question. What am I hunting for?

world objects for sandtray work

world objects for sandtray work

My interest is fleeting when events are contrived, plucked from the air. Characters convince me when they are embodied and grow around obstacles, reaching towards the light, while spreading roots and producing seeds (new thoughts,) even when they come from mythical creatures, kings and slaves of the past, or explorers of distant futures. As long as events happen in a believable psychological setting, I engage.

Then again, I’ve been convinced by writing that made no sense at all, until, with a little patience, I discovered a new comprehension shining through an abstract form. It’s a wonderful feeling, and important feedback for writers, who may be surprised by what is evoked in readers. Once I finished my present project, I intent to spend more time on reviewing – a most giving art of reading.

Stories for stories sake can be dull, while stories in which nothing much happens outwardly can be riveting when they resonate with the human condition, where, quite often, what seems true becomes false, and what seems false becomes true.

It is said we write the books we want to read. When writing, I search to combine words that convince intellectually and emotionally, until something true is mirrored back. Maybe what I’m hunting for in my reading and writing are fitting metaphors for the miracle of existence.

I always delight in discovering neglected writers, like Marlene Haushofer,  or the poet W S Graham, whom I wrote about here as part of a post in Sept 2013.  And beyond new works, there are innumerable old favourites, including H G Wells. The link connects to a post I did about one of his lesser known stories.

Thinking about photography, my other passionate reading, I was inspired by Henri Cartier Bresson – the link leads to my post about him.  And here the archive of the street photography of Andre Kertesz – enjoy.  I’ll leave film alone, that’s a whole other story.

What are your reflections on reading?

 

Some related blogposts:

Storytelling and the primary world.

Mother-tongue and other tongue.

Memory and Place.

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… interludes – and poetry by W S Graham …

I’ve neglected you, my reader friends, immersed in writing the sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors’ and a few interludes. Like, my writing fixation was pleasantly disrupted last week through meeting my son at Covent Garden, and later attending the launch of ‘The Inflatable Buddha’ by András Kepes at the Hungarian Cultural Centre in London.

Armadillo Central launches 'The Inflatable Buddha.'

Armadillo Central launches ‘The Inflatable Buddha.’

 

It is the newest project of my to-be publisher http://www.armadillocentral.com/  András’s novel offers a more subtle perspective than officially recorded history, showing the fictional lives and wits of three ordinary, idiosyncratic Hungarians during the twentieth century. The sample readings enticed me, and I’m now looking  forward to reading the book. The well-attended, grand launch event also gave me a taste of what is to come – being exposed to questions about my own epic .

 

Then came a traumatic interlude to my writing …

I mourn the shimmer and music of its leaves.

I mourn the shimmer and music of its leaves.

During the last two days, to the grinding noise of chainsaws and a shredder, I mourned the loss of a beautiful poplar/aspen tree in my neighbourhood, which has grown too high for its owner. The now mutilated tree (the image shows a third of its size) will be gone completely next week. I’ll miss the shimmer and the watery music of its leaves, produced by the slightest breeze, and the golden hearts trailing into my garden come autumn. I picked a few early leaves to treasure, pressed to dry in my dictionary.

Today a most pleasant surprise … a poetry book arrived unexpectedly in the post, sent by a Scottish friend/poet, who is at this moment working with a visual artist on a project about Tin-mining in St Ives. Due to blank spots in my education I rely on stumbling upon poets less publicised, and was delighted to receive this gift of an expertly edited ‘New Collected Poems’ by W S Graham. So I thought I’ll share excerpts from his poems – on themes that will chime with fellow writers .

W. S. Graham (1918-1986) grew up in Clydeside, Scotland, and initially followed the footsteps of his father, who was a structural engineer in the ship-building trade. However, a year studying philosophy and literature at an adult education centre outside Edinburgh set him on the path of writing poetry for the rest of his life, irrespective of meagre financial rewards. He travelled to London and New York City, but later lived with his wife in Cornwall.

W S Graham, image by Sally Fear

W S Graham, image by Sally Fear

I was delving into the book this morning. Here some facets, unconnected lines, the first from THE NIGHTFISHING    (1955) – a melodic composition, speaking to the seen and unseen,  from a night in a herring boat out on the North Sea.

… Gently the quay bell

Strikes the held air …

Strikes the held air like

Opening a door

So that all the dead

Brought to harmony

Speak out on silence …

I am befriended by

This sea which utters me …

… Far out calls

The continual sea.

Now within the dead

Of night and the dead

Of all my life I go.

I’m one ahead of them

Turned in below

I’m borne in their eyes

Through the staring world.

The present opens its arms …

… Each word is but a longing

Set out to break from a difficult home. Yet in

It’s meaning I am …

… The bow wakes hardly a spark at the black hull.

The night and day both change their flesh about

In merging levels …

The iron sea engraved to our faintest breath

The spray fretted and fixed at a high temper,

A script of light …

… The streaming morning in its tensile light

Leans to us and looks over on the sea.

It’s time to haul. The air stirs its faint pressures

A slat of wind …

… The white net flashing under the watched water,

The near net dragging back with the full belly

Of a good take certain …

 

Some of the last lines of – THE NIGHT CITY – a turning point … I found Eliot and he said yes … T S Eliot was then with Faber and Faber. He became Graham’s publisher.

… Midnight. I hear the moon

Light chiming on St Paul’s

The City is empty. Night

Watchmen are drinking their tea …

Between the big buildings

I sat like a flea crouched

In the stopped works of a watch.

 

From IMPLEMENTS IN THEIR PLACES (1977) I picked a refrain from WHAT IS LANGUAGE USING US FOR ?

… What is the language using us for?

It uses us all and in its dark

Of dark actions selections differ …

 

And last – AIMED AT NOBODY – Poems from Notebooks (1993)

PROEM

It does not matter who you are,

It does not matter who I am.

This book has not been purposely

made for any reason.

It has made itself by circumstances

It is aimed at nobody at all.

It is now left just as an object by me

to be encountered by somebody else.

 

*    *    *

This may well be how it feels for most writers who simply can’t help sculpting experiences into words. What do you think?

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