What about the drawing of distinctions?
Should they be blurred to favour tolerance?
Is the line concise on contradictions?
What advice does logic bring to difference?
How are we to judge without conclusion?
How so is ‘that from this’ to be defined?
Is ‘to know’ a hoax, a grand delusion?
Are all things to be boldly underlined?
What of two-minds that claim a single-thought?
What of the question that has no answer?
What’s nothing but the invention of naught?
What’s more static than a statued dancer?
. It’s not the answer that in truth divides,
. More so the question that in doubt resides.
To the reader: The tolerant society is a highly abstracted notion. Those who thrive in liberal communities put aside rigid structures and tolerate difference. In this relaxed and generous environment customs and codes of practice can be questioned and answers refined; ethics evolve. Social contracts are loose and forgiving with cultures flourishing side-by-side. In this social order we prefer the question (process) resist the answer (product) as we crave the experience… all lines are blurred.
To the poet: Earlier, I broke Shakespeare’s sixty-sixth sonnet into a series of twelve sonnets; expanding on his list of grumpy grievances. Likewise, in this sonnet (of mine) I lay down the foundation for a longer exploration of ‘difference and distinction’; again, in twelve parts. The project took a couple of months to complete with other themes and interests put on hold… to what end, I’ll let you judge.
Pall of darkness on road to Damascus;
It’s a sad indictment of light’s reform.
The mood is tense and turning fractious;
What says the message in this rising storm?
They do not hear its thunder. Are they deaf
to its rumbling; to its tremulous pound?
They are so broken of spirit, no clef
can orchestrate meaning, make sense of sound.
How loud must the message be amplified
before these soldiers are stopped in their tracks?
What lightning, what thunder must coincide
in their hearts and minds? … meanwhile Kingdom cracks.
. All roads lead to somewhere, they are the course
. of discovery; fortune and remorse.
To the reader: Two years on… and the crisis intensifies; a sad indictment of geo-political posturing. As tallied, the numbers describing death and displacement are staggering. Associated stories are horrendous; and yet, the map of suffering and destruction consumes itself with ravenous ferocity. Nothing to do with justice. Misguided conviction plays out another confrontation; another catastrophe; another war crime – such a pity.
To the poet: Man of darkness on the road to Damascus. A conversion story, where Saul takes on a simple journey that leads to a complex tale of self-discovery. Paul (Saul’s alter ego) emerges from the flash-point a transformed individual. In Aristotle’s theatrical framework (Poetics) Saul’s crisis is the turning-point; the reversal, from which Paul seeks resolution. The equivalence of one man’s story…
They tell me the life-long journey is done.
Apparently, there’s been a change of course.
The argument goes “that old race is run…
that over-trodden track has lost its force.”
Seems to me, it’s the traveller’s gone astray.
It’s not the map that has thrown its compass
to the four winds; and so, must find its way.
It’s the runner; stuck in a deep crevasse:
he’s become the point of question, the cause
to pause, to hesitate, to contemplate:
‘position and condition’ on foreign shores;
he threw aside the guide and tested fate.
. Old maps are not for the lost to squander,
. they offer much for the lost to ponder.
To the reader: Throughout life we adapt to changing circumstances. Those who stop adapting are least likely to survive the ravages of time. Thus, the life-long journey is a continuous construction of self; one that represents our environmental relationships. The key to survival is adaptation. Our adaptive capacities (knowledge, skills and understandings) are transmitted through interaction with others. There is no end to this journey, forever mapped to a lust for learning.
To the poet: As a counter-argument this sonnet doesn’t quite reach the status of polemic. It does however mount a good case for life-long learning as mapped to a solid premise. The poetical challenge was to intersperse some geographical terrain into the text; the geographical context. The final handwritten version (3 June 2012) of this poem struggled to find its way; a digital rescue (2 February 2015) was applied a year or two down the track.
I have swept the path of last Summer’s leaves;
it’s late April, so prepare the parade.
Salute the fallen; sombre Autumn heaves
a sigh; recalls the cover of green shade.
Now, on my shoulder rests a golden leaf.
What am I to do? Brush it to the ground?
How do I interpret this small motif:
as commemorative fall; from tree unbound?
Between my shoulder and the ground there’s space,
just enough space, to think about good cause.
There’s time, just enough time, to put in place
a thought… a moment for reflective pause.
. In fluttering leaves there’s a story told,
. it’s a narrative, that turns green to gold.
To the reader: In temperate Australia, the autumnal month of April is adorned with commemorative symbolism. The imagery includes bravery and mateship woven into wreathes of green and gold. As the leaves of Summer flutter softly to the ground, there’s a sombre passage of reflection; space and time to remember the fallen before winter turns the foliage to mush. Those who fought for peace, now rest in peace… lest we forget.
To the poet: A nice sonnet that turns a small personal incident into something more socially significant; and that’s the point of poetry. Through the obvious we discover truth; between gaps we discover opportunity; from now we interpret the moment – but only if we take notice. As poets, we need to observe what is and isn’t happening; for between these occurrences speaks possibility… through the poet’s eye we imagine the universe.
Once upon a time I presume he danced,
for there was rhythm in his shuffling gait.
I suppose there was a time when he chanced
to skip the pavement, to jump the fence, skate
upon thin ice; I presume this was so.
I suppose that once upon a time he
could run like the wind and swivel on snow.
May be once, this was how he used to be?
How he used to be, before age took hold
and shortened his strides into steps; weathered
then withered his reach; proceeded to fold
him into segments… with all parts severed.
. In this man there are vestiges of truth.
. Hidden in his shuffle is this man’s youth.
To the reader: The shuffle of elderly folk is rooted in the tentative first steps of childhood. Without momentum the ageing-frame hasn’t the balance to sustain a full-stride between steps; it’s lost the confidence to fall forward. In our prime the ability to walk is translated into the rhythm of life; through dance we skip; through sport we skate; as through time we scurry. Without stretch, and pace to match, we compensate … we walk with two feet not one, we shuffle.
To the poet: The strong structure of this sonnet descends into an awkward shuffle. It begins with stride and then falters. Beyond the first stanza, short-repeats struggle to complete a full line. Temporary anchors are scattered throughout. Stop-start phrases need backward attention. Through heavy compensation the sonnet’s rhythm is lost. In poetry, physical structure is as much a tool as any other literary technique; a poem is built as much as it is written.
For millennia we have scribed our thoughts;
put pen to paper and as such preserved
all manner of inspiration… all sorts
of wonder. So conscripted, we’ve conserved
in good faith the font of reason’s reference.
Forever more attached, writ and listed:
sentenced, word-by-word, the very essence
of a flourish: styled but never twisted.
Written as to permeate our culture,
bold-stroked messages indelibly inked
to imitate form, or shape a future
world; built upon words, most beautifully linked.
. It’s the cursive script of pen or quill,
. that reveals the hand of a writer’s will.
Tim Grace, 14 December 2011
To the reader: I was wondering… were the Egyptians able to turn a poetic phrase in hieroglyphic form? In search of an answer, I stumbled on the ‘Lettrist Movement’ led by Isidore Isou; post the second world war. Lettrism’s Manifesto rallied against the atomised letter and the destructive power of the word. Far from enabling freedom of thought, lettrists perceived letters and words as insidious links in a constricting chain; manipulated by the literati. According to Lettrism, the hieroglyph does less damage in transporting and translating an experience across a thoughtful medium such as poetry. I’m still wondering…
To the poet: Letterism aside, preservation of a word-based poem requires a script that will authentically transport a message through time and space; so that some time later… the distant reader can retrieve their own uniquely crafted assembly of ideas. In scripting a poem, the skill is in the crafted management of its future impact on the reader. Used too functionally, too literally, the script can lack fertile nuance and starve the text of ambiguous translation; for at the heart of reading and writing poetry is creative interpretation.