Ian McMillan - 14 September 2010
Welcome to this first blog in what will become a collectable series, building over the Autumn into, well, A Collection of Blogs! Think of it as a bit like one of those weekly publications that you used to collect (I did, anyway): Dinosaurs/Butterflies/Rocks/Bonanza. There's an idea: I wonder if anyone has ever written a poem in praise (or otherwise) of those weekly part-publications that form a huge part of a lot of lives? Maybe somebody should, and when you've written it send it to this blog and we'll all have a look at it!
Because this is The Poetry Archive, I want to think a lot about sound in this blog. Sound is of course one of the places where poetry begins: not just the sound of language but the sounds we hear every day, the ones that ebb and flow around us as we make our way through the hours. I was recently lucky enough to record an edition of Desert Island Discs and my eighth record was John Cage's (in)famous 4'33", the silent piece. We didn't play it all, of course! The odd thing was that the disc (yes, there is one!) wasn't silent at all. It was full of ambient noise, as though it had been recorded on location. And of course this is the point of the piece: as you're listening to it you're picking up the sounds around you, making an aural world as you listen.
So this morning has been a morning of sounds that I want to try to shape into a poem. I got up early for my bracing walk but because it was raining I delayed it a little and played with my new iPad, looking at poetry blogs. One of my favourites is the great American poet Ron Silliman's (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I looked at some fantastic YouTube films he'd posted of the poet Charles Olson reading a couple of poems. Somewhere in the background of Olson's voice, way back, you can hear the people of his native Gloucester Massachusetts, talking on the dock: it's there in that Gloucester 'a' that leans over ever so slightly, like Olson does. You can also hear, I reckon, the sounds of the sea, the crying of seabirds, the wind from the ocean and the creaking of rigging.
The rain stopped and I walked up the hill into the little town of Wombwell. I listened to a man in the supermarket queue: 'I like these little pears tha noz: just enough for one sithee. Custard or nowt, I'm not bothered.' And way back in his voice I could hear mining terms and mouths half closed against the biting South Yorkshire wind. I also heard the sounds: shopping trolleys and mobility scooters, a bag bursting and tins of beans crashing to the floor, buses and cars slowing down and accelerating away, the beeping of the pedestrian crossing.
And somewhere in there, there are poems to be found.
Let's have a go, shall we?