*DING!* MANIFESTO: PART ONE
[Apologies for the short length and confusion of this first ‘manifesto’. Writing about poetry should not have been a struggle, but it was. If nothing else, the exercise has taught me that I need to regularly organise and voice my thoughts concerning the art of poetry, in order to understand my own aims. How can I claim to write something if unable to explore its definitions/boundaries?]
Your challenge as a poet is to find something poignant, provoking or relatable in the mundane. Can you unearth an awe-inspiring creature from its hole in the mud? You can’t smoke it out or send in the ferrets, remember: you need it alive and thriving. Capture it, nurture it and then set it free, to breed responses in the heads of your readers.
Of course, we are not restricted exclusively to the mundane. But I believe it is too tempting to be lazy, too easy to conjure up a thrill if you dwell permanently in the realm of the abstract or surreal. People need reassurance that they are not going through the human condition alone. Yet don’t they also need assurance that it hasn’t all been done before, that there is a point to living, perhaps something new they can bring to the table? So bring something new to the table. Fuck it: kick the table over, smash it up, build a bonfire out of the pieces and have a picnic of jelly-bean-and-dead-hamster casserole on the floor beside the crackling flames. A pyre for a dying norm. Scoop that casserole up with your hands and use the spoons you brought along to trace unsymmetrical patterns in the scattered ashes.
Anyway, as I was saying…
Finding a novel way to express something already known is a big deal in poetry. Yes, your work needs to express a universal truth, or at least contain something recognisable to your fellow humans. But it can’t just state a truth, you should get there in an original way. We all know the tide comes and goes, but did you ever think how it “Creeps away, many-snaked, with a long hiss of distress” (Berck-Plage, Sylvia Plath)? Most of us have paddled in the water but have you ever “felt his silver heel/Upon (your) ankle” (By the Sea, Emily Dickinson) or “the metallic coils of the tide/around (your) fathomless arms” (To the Harbormaster, Frank O’Hara)? Your imagery needs to be simultaneously startling and familiar, it should slide home with a satisfying click while also setting off a joyous *ding!* This is an interpretation of the world that you are offering to the reader, a world you both share. It’s fine for your perceptions and interpretations to be totally different to those of the reader, but you have no chance of communicating them without that *ding!*
*ding!* signals recognition
*ding!* signals surprise
*ding!* signals engagement
*ding!* signals awakening
*ding!* signals foreplay well-received
Here, somewhat abruptly, endeth Part One.