Saturday, 30 May 2015

Unintended Obscurities

For Simon Armitage, creative writing workshops aren't always smiles and giggles:
What concerns me, fascinates me, occasionally horrifies me but now rarely surprises me, is the number of times students bring poems to class which leave fellow students baffled and bewildered, and leave the tutor in much the same state. Poems which even after the most rigorous, in-depth reading they’re ever likely to receive, by several high-functioning individuals with a declared commitment to the cause, still resist the most basic analysis. The class might marvel at the clever use of a gerund in line three, or spend 35 minutes debating the relative merits of a semi-colon over a hyphen, or the poem might lead us into a discussion about recent breakthroughs in neuroscience. But by and large it remains a mystery. Which wouldn’t be a problem if mystification or deliberate vagueness was the author’s intention, but upon interrogation it usually turns out the poet had a very clear picture of the poem in his or her mind, a sort of framed vision, outlining a very definite set of circumstances. When I ask the author to replace the title, ‘Echoes’ it might be called, or ‘Conundrum in the Key of Clouds’ as I had recently… when I ask the author to replace the title with a geographical place-name appropriate to the poem’s subject matter, or to replace an adjective with some straightforward description of the poem’s whereabouts, seven times out of ten everything becomes clear. The poem’s unintended obscurities are resolved.

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