Not a year that went exactly as planned:
melodrama, tragedy and high farce.
Controversial guests that denied the bland
intent of pleasant passage come to pass.
We’ve managed (despite these guests) to cope
with upset, and to patch-up those mistakes
that through repair addressed the slippery slope.
We’ve all learnt something: learnt what it takes
to muddle-on, to pull-back from the brink;
to keep calm; bunker down and take it slow.
With stoic grit, we’ve learnt to neither blink
nor shrink from scandal’s shame or worry’s woe.
. We are the better for adversity.
. So claims the wisdom of perversity.
To the reader: I worked with a colleague who muddled his way through a year of workplace calamities. Piles of paperwork spilled over his desk; nothing got finished; technologies failed, and deadlines passed. With such hopeless organisational skills, other staff watched-on in dismay. His boss gave up all hope of a supervised solution; so the problem just got worse. The disconnect widened and office isolation became entrenched.
To the poet: I left a card somewhere on his desk. An end-of-year message that added precarious height to an existing pile of paper. And so began this sonnet. It’s not about ‘him’ more informed by his various predicaments. His office isolation (somewhat self-imposed) reminded me of brackets. Brackets (here exampled) recognise a necessary petition of parts; inclusive features, distinct in nature… describes him well.
‘This from that‘ can be interpreted thrice;
subtle ambiguity some might say.
Otherwise expressed, a poet’s device;
so that hairs might split, so that ends might fray.
‘From this that‘ a simple alteration
from the original text, an exchange
of order, a sequenced variation:
sleight of hand, write of passage, slightly strange,
rightly plausible; curious, obtuse.
That’s the poet’s ploy, that’s the poet’s choice.
‘From that this‘ offers another excuse
to alter meaning without change of voice.
. From that this… from this that … or … this from that?
. Noteworthy differences … or idle chat?
To the reader: Variations on a theme. Subtle change. One of many interpretations. The Sciences love to monitor variation; noting change with mathematical precision. In the Arts, it’s through music that variations abound. The music industry cleverly exploits the human ear’s acuity by releasing different versions of the same song, or orchestral piece, for our listening pleasure… spot the difference.
To the poet: … another one of those puzzle poems. Word order is an important semantic tool. Sometimes it makes little difference to meaning; other times, a shift in placement can disorient the reader’s expectation. Used deliberately, a change of word order can be very effective in drawing attention to a point of difference.
It’s not that these are different: so unlike
that resemblance must be forged or forced
from two extremes. It’s not that hard to strike
agreement; one that’s logically endorsed.
The fear of difference is a sad disease,
a limiting malady; one that’s stoked
by judgement (prejudice) and jealousies:
stoked by greed; too easily provoked;
too easily given voice of reason;
dressed as patriotic (us not them).
As contrast sees many, difference sees one.
It’s from a single cell that many stem.
. Be not divided by difference, delight
. in contrast, sing of all things bold and bright.
To the reader: When an image is drained of definition we can manipulate its balance to achieve a better effect. Toggling the tonal quality adjusts the play of light and colour. Too much light and the image is saturated with colour. Any over-compensation risks distortion. The trick is to graduate changes with care so that shadows, lines and temperature strike a natural pose.
To the poet: In any act of distortion, there’s a point at which an adjustment disagrees with reality; the exaggerated affect stretches belief. Over-emphasis is the literary equivalence of photographic saturation. In concluding a sonnet there’s a risk of rising to a climactic couplet, a crescendo of pretentious agreement… “sing of all things bold and bright” may have met the tipping point?
To this point, there’s a statement of intent:
the sending of a message; the promise
to commit; it’s this sets the precedent,
this then becomes the line of sight, from this
all else is judged upon delivery.
Against what’s known, what’s been, new things are judged:
held account; tested for transparency;
valued for clarity … dismissed if smudged.
The purity of truth is honesty:
revered as the path to enlightenment;
it’s the well-spring of possibility;
a straight approach without impedement.
. For those who are driven by conviction,
. be not distracted by contradiction.
To the reader: Up to a point, most of us can hold opposing points of view without losing face or sleep. The internal debate over right and wrong, good and bad is instructive. Occasionally, gaps widen and curious differences become stark and polarised. Through choice, we abandon one idea for another and our personal conflict is resolved. Through good government, mature societies can do the same: we live with contradiction but not hipocracy.
To the poet: “Is the line concise on contradiction?” Unpacking, then reassembling a ten-syllable sequence created for poetic effect is a bit of a stretch; for reader and poet. On the way to a logical conclusion there are many distracting alternatives; rhyme being the most significant. As one rhyme demands another the margin of error widens and the meaningful target becomes less and less a possibility. You can feel it happening… but like bike and tree there’s a fatal attraction to disaster!
By way of dust and ashes we are linked
to common threads: strung to a string of time;
individually knotted, distinct
in our difference. Be it lemon or lime,
we are spliced to a single stock; rooted
in the same soil; given source to nourish;
encouraged to grow as would be suited
to meet our own needs; and thereby, flourish
into form, complete with name and feature:
detailed with nuance, character and style,
labelled as ‘self’ from a common creature.
. Thus, we are universally designed,
. and yet, so individually defined.
To the reader: As crowds assemble, individual features are swallowed by a depth of field that intuitively responds to changes of light and aperture. As eyes adjust to new interests, peripheral surroundings are rendered as a common blur. It takes just the slightest shift of focus to re-engage with diffused details; to bring them to the fore as new impressions; key-frames that describe “my” experience of a common event.
To the poet: “What about the drawing of distinctions?” A long thread of thoughts; heavily punctuated with sign-posts and guide-rails separating one thing from another. At various turning points the poem poses two similar characteristics and through nuance attributes to them a difference of sorts: dust and ashes, lemon or lime, name and feature, character and style. Not that similar, not that different, separated then by distinction.
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.