At Home in Hauntology

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Neither dead or Alive

– Here in the garden, I notice change flickering and looping in the invisible lapse of time between my footsteps, bird feet, the silent beats of butterfly wings and the movements of flora. In my passing, I de-head the odd flower, I note a small bud in apprehension and the imminent rain. Mid summer vacillating between now and the ‘not yet.’ I hear the garden in its tumescent silence and sound. Time feels ‘out of joint’ here, as Derrida writes in Spectres of Marx (1993).  Elsewhere too.  Time wraps itself around its transparent body and through itself like an inconspicuous knot. It ties here and there together and still things fall apart. Here in the garden, the sounds of memory and the formidable future, all congeal, then dissolve, then appear again. Their presence, like all presences appear, not as former versions of themselves, but as uncertainties. Here in the garden, spectrality blooms to betray us. 

– Spectrality, according to Fredric Jameson:

“Does not involve the conviction that ghosts exist or that the past…is still very much alive and at work, within the living present: all it says, if it can be thought to speak, is that the living present is scarcely as self-sufficient as it claims to be; that we would do well not to count on its density and solidity, which might under exceptional circumstances betray us.” ‘Marx’s Purloined Letter’, in Ghostly Demarcations, pp. 26–67 (p. 39).

– Here in the house, I hear history’s footsteps on the wooden floorboards and the house breathing mingled air: yesterday touches fifty years ago in the skin of a wall. Footsteps outside on the street come inside through an open window.  Upstairs in my study, I am lost in the non-time of the internet, memory and writing and the future possibilities of what emerges out of these processes, places and connectivity. I ask myself, do I believe in ghosts or just the possibility of what spectrality discloses? Either way, my writing and your on this Master course will reveal the idea of such questions, will speak to uncertainty.  The ghost in the words of Colin Davis, “pushes at the boundaries of language and thought.”  (Davies: French Studies: 2005). The ghost in your words, will push the boundaries of your hauntings, your “dead futures,” and living pasts. In our exploration of the “the elusive identities of the living” (Davies: French Studies: 2005) and in our tracings of places and times, in the silences we encounter, in the absences we step into, in the futures we reflect on, we will map out our hauntological sensibilities in our poetry.

You do not have to be acquainted with Derrida to experience his deconstructive philosophy in your writing but you do have to be willing to allow your writing and reading to open to new possibilities.

The course runs from Sep 13th  2021 until 6th December 2021

Bibliography

Colin Davis, Hauntology, spectres and phantoms, French Studies, Volume 59, Issue 3, July 2005, Pages 373–379. 

Dialogues in Dwelling

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By what invisible architecture is the poem developed? asks Barbara Guest in her seminal, short poetic statement, called Invisible Architecture? By what invisible architecture is the house turned into poetry? I hear myself answering as I read beyond & between the surface of her question, there is an invisible architecture often supporting the surface of the poem, she commences, & I in response, drift in the enigmatic gaps of her wording to dwell on what it is to write ofto write in or outside the spaces of home, the geography of its world.

– My house is the red earth; it could be the centre of the world. I’ve heard New York, Paris, or Tokyo called the center of the world, but I say it is magnificently humble. You could drive by and miss it/ writes Joy Harjo in her poem, My House Is the Red Earth – 

– My center right now is the bedroom in which I sit writing, my dog lies sleeping on my bed, & my son beside him watching something on the laptop.  We are wombed & walled, briefly together in the nimbus of a Sunday afternoon, as the rain warms up what should be a cold, winter afternoon. Here, I inhabit all types of houses & constructed spaces, through the invisible architecture of memory, reading & the page. 

-This master course will guide you to uncover, build, reshape, dismantle your inhabited & uninhabited spaces through writing which embodies the abstract, concrete, cultural, philosophical & spiritual dimension of home & notions of what it means to dwell.

-Building and thinking are, writes Heideggar, each in its own way inescapable for dwelling – building and thinking belong to dwelling, he reiterates. This is the aim of the course: to dwell in the dialogues of Kristjana Gunnars, Yi-Fu Tuan, Pierre Joris, Bell Hooks, Mary Oliver, Lisa Roberston (to name but a few) to inform your own practise & writing of poetry; to dwell in the poetry of Mei Mei Berssenbrugge, Sophie Cabot Black, Jenifer S.Cheng, Jenifer Wong, Kei Miller, Robert Kroetsch, (a small sample) – To dwell in these dialogues & their possibilities.

If words are little houses, as Bachelard proposes in The Poetics of Space, then our aim on the course is to become architects, drawing the house into poetry, with language & new observations from and in distance – 

Here is a poem from my collection What Things Are. It attempts to draw, if not the house, then tracings of it.

Drawing

My daughter’s art is on the kitchen walls, hieroglyphs –

this morning she surrounds herself yet again by crayons,

has strayed into her drawing – almost irrevocable 

as she casts away the delicate existence of one place,

nets the likeness of how she sees the world and shows me 

a house with a yellow roof, flowers, almost as big as the house, 

rain falling neatly out of the sky in two lines, grass so perfect, 

that it’s impossible to imagine any house standing 

on such tranquility –

 

(What Things Are, Eyewear: 2014) 

Through a series of writing exercises & reading materials, you will develop the confidence to engage in critical theory & produce a longer poetry sequence, or embark on a new project, embodying the homestead & its visible & invisible structures. 

The course runs from 11th Jan 2021 until 12th April 2021

Click here to book: https://poetryschool.com/courses/dialogues-in-dwelling-masterclass/

Photograph: Annie Spratt

How In Shadowed Landscapes?

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“This is the world in profile, medieval, the landscape gathered up into the face…” 

Jorie Graham [‘Harvest for Bergson’ in Hybrid of Plants and Ghosts]

This workshop will explore how the notion of landscape haunts our presence, how landscape and language grows from our own fractured ‘scapes,’ how landscapes divulge, sunder, determine the spaces we inhabit, how, as writers and figures in landscape, we can re articulate ‘landscape’ in order to engage in waves of thinking and writing about its role in the world, question how fragile and formidable it is, ask ourselves, how in shadowed landscapes there is sentience to which we must pay close attention, how in the words of Jorie Graham, 

“easily our tracks 

are filled. How easily

we are undone, … “ [On Why I Would Betray You]

The workshop will reflect on poetry which engages in and departs from walks through literal and personal landscapes, across time and place:  Zoë Skoulding, Harriet Tarlo, Peter Riley as well as the voices of Latasha N Nevada Diggs,  Camille Dung, Louise Glück and Jorie Graham, will cross our reading paths on which discuss and develop our writing ideas. We will appropriate our own conceptual notions of landscapes and nurture their intent, allowing the “line of the landscape /run through me to somewhere else/ ((Zoë Skoulding).

Date: Tues 27th October 2020: 6.45pm – 8.45pm.

For booking see: @ginkoprize

Beating Time: A Conversation Between Art & Poetry

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Sandra's Cross CLOSE UP on Pink background

An extract from Anna Souter’s essay on my collaboration with Sandra Beccarelli’s work:

“…Beccarelli’s work is similarly produced in the context of an ongoing working relationship with a living writer. Beccarelli’s close collaboration with poet Agnieszka Studzinska is a lively, open-ended dialogue, in which each shares intimate aspects of their craft with the other. Beccarelli, for instance, shares images from her sketchbooks or from the backs of her canvases, while Studzinska sends snapshots from her notebooks, which include poems and notes which have been annotated, edited or crossed out entirely.

In their continuing conversation, the fractured surfaces of Beccarelli’s paintings might inspire Studzinska to create fragmented narratives, while calligraphic gestures from Studzinska’s poems are referenced in Beccarelli’s composite canvases. Both Beccarelli and Studzinska are preoccupied with the capacity of their medium to express meaning, as well as with notions of change and transformation, and this is played out in both the content of their work and in the continual transference of ideas and motifs between painter and poet.”

Click here for the full version:

http://arbart.crassh.cam.ac.uk/beating-time/

The Poetics of Space

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The Poetics of Space after Bachelard [an introduction]Corner window_Bachelard

“A house that has been experienced is not an inert box. Inhabited space transcends geometrical space.”

My house is sometimes a chair I sit on in a different country, a tent, a beach, the woods I return to in photographs. My grandmother’s hand as it stirred her black tea. My children’s skin on my lips as they leave to walk to school. My house is the language I speak from a distance.

“That the houses that were lost forever continue to live on in us; that they insist in us in order to live again.”

Write your space. Observe spaces inside out. From inside your house. From outside looking through a window. From not being here or having. Witness the house that never existed [until now]. Draw your corners, hide in them, reveal yourself in their nooks and corners. Rub them out. Close your eyes. Enter the topography of your intimate being. Find your image.

“The poetic image places us at the origins of the speaking being.”

I open mine. I am in a house. Behind a desk, upstairs in the attic. Surrounded by books, papers, half opened texts, boxes and plastic storage, Christmas paraphernalia, old clothes. Intoxicated by so much material. This space is the study, a writing room, the guest room, a haunted room bound by presence. Up here, at the top of the house, I experience an intimacy that is hard to define. An affinity with language, not yet spoken, things lost and waiting in history, of writing, of space that allows me to inhabit its very complicated architecture.

Door Knob_black and white_Bachelard

“We are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.”

I am lucky to have an attic. Even luckier to have a house. A house that I call home at long last. But it hasn’t always been like this. Many don’t occupy either. Never come close.  Surrender this word to wars, drown it in separations. Coil, twist, buckle into their bodies to find their corners, their solitude or end.

 “ To curl up, belongs to the phenomenology of the verb to inhabit.” xxxviii

For Bachelard, the attic is a psychological metaphor for clarity. But up here, I am far from that which is tangible, and my perceptions of this attic space is distorted by all that it holds, and promises and fails to deliver. I occupy it with caution, relish its atmosphere.

“There is ground for taking the house as a tool for analysis of the human soul.”

Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space (La Poétique de l’Espace, 1958) invites us to examine space in new light. What is the meaning of spaces in houses, in the house itself and its corners? The house is his phenomenological object, in which our personal experiences our heightened.

“All really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home.”

But we know different. We can argue against his assertion. Not all houses are safe, secure or welcoming. I invite you on this course to explore such ideas through our writing of house, and away from house, through our experiences of dwelling, in the way we inhabit places. In as much as entering houses, we will leave them behind and find new locations of space that open the dialectics of inside and outside.

“The images I want to examine are the quite simply images of felicitous space.”

Writing poetry that is on the threshold, on the boundaries of what exists inside and what has disappeared. “When the image is new, the world is new,” says Bachelard. We will seek new images living in spaces before us, developing new worlds and meanings of belonging. We will follow and diverge from Bachelard’s thinking –

“Poetry, rather than being a phenomenology of the mind, is a phenomenology of the soul.”

window _black and white

I hear the tapping of keyboards, the transmission of airplanes across a rain soaked sky, glassy now in slicked blue. The space of the attic moors my body. The doorbell from the post-man breaks free this tarpaulin. Bills, leaflets, fashion brochures, government pledges. No sign of a letter or postcard to gesture your presence, your voice inside the handwriting that never arrives.

https://poetryschool.com/courses/poetics-of-space-after-bachelard-international/

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.

Writing Self in Poetry

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doves

Photograph Andy Bullock

 

What is self & how do I write it?

 

Colossal, tumescent questions hanging & waiting to drop. In their falling the splattered matter of their existence is what poetry picks up (poetry that I like to read & write anyway.) The splattered matter of self.

 

What do I mean by this word self, which often gets kicked around like a football on a tired pitch. One dictionary definition writes this:

 

self: A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.

 

I extract part of that sentence: ‘An essential being’ – is that soul? I ask (myself)

 

The concept of self dates back to Plato, Aristotle, Kant & René Descartes, who in his book Meditations on the First Philosophy explores the dualism & materialism of body & mind, the distinction between body &mind: a material body & a non-material mind make up the human being. Self is often paired with soul (the essential being). The American poet Alice Notley, in her collection, Mysteries of Small Houses has written a poem called House of Self, in which in her own words (in an interview with me via email) she says, “the poem House of Self is about what the soul is.”

 

“This neutrality of being is hard to describe” (Notley: 1998: 2)

 

Colossal, tumescent statements, sentences, words waiting to be unpicked. Are we wanting to write about soul then? Or something Other?

 

Face to Face with Otherness? In her book, ‘Rootprints, Memory and Life Writing’ Hélène Cixous writes beautifully on otherness in relation to the I.

 

“The other in all his or her forms gives me I. It is on the occasion of the other that I catch sight of me, or that I catch me at: reacting, choosing, refusing, accepting. It is the other that makes my portrait.” (Cixous: 1997: 13)

 

I extract “The other that makes my portrait.”  I like this.

 

So with this in mind, I want to create/build/explore/dismantle writing & poems that somehow speak to “the other that makes my portrait” – that speak of a sense of I & other & self –the self that balances the autobiographical with the universal, the fictional with the factional, the memory with the hauntings, history with our perceptions of it, voice with silence.

 

I want to discover voice in poems, how do we give voice to the self?

 

Alice Notley asserts in House of Self:

 

I am

What I asked for

I am speaking

I speak like this

 

I want us to speak with confidence in our writing as we write our poems, as we get inspired. Speak of experience, risk being disliked, write towards the vulnerability that Anne Lamott discuses in Bird by Bird, “Tell the truth as you understand it.”

 

So with this in mind, I have been reading poems by Louise Glück, Carolyn Forché, Paul Celan, Marie Howe, Maggie Nelson, Anne Carson, Ocean Vuong, Danez Smith, Sharon Olds, Jacques Dupin to name but a few, which hold vulnerability in their language & narrative, in their giving.

 

Anne Lamott says that you have to give or there’s no reason for you to be writing. “You have to give from the deepest part of yourself and you are going to have to go on giving…” (Lamott: 1994: 203)

 

On the course you will receive time & guidance as you give your self to your writing.

 

As I write this, there are many selves at play – 6.00 am on a Thursday in late February. I catch myself uncovering small details of yesterdays attentions & memories, already beginning to disappear. I can hear the dog downstairs slumped against the kitchen door, a duvet succumbing to the morning’s frosted slant, small feet entering the bedroom, asking if mummy is awake? I want to catch this.

 

On this course you will catch yourself in similar & different moments, offering yourself as the opportunity to write the ‘unexpected.’

 

https://poetryschool.com/courses/writing-self-in-poetry-international/

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.

 

Bibliography

Cixous, Hélène & Calle-Gruber Mireille, Rootprints, Memory and Life Writing, Routledge, London and New York, 1997

Descartes Rene, (trans) Donald A. Cress, Meditations on the First Philosophy, Hackett Publishing, Indianapolis/Cambridge, 1993

Lamott Anne, Bird by Bird, Anchor Books, New York, 1994

Notley Alice, Mysteries of Small Houses, Penguin Books, USA, 1998