Ian McMillan - 7 October 2010

Up early. Sound of the creaking stairs as I walk down them. Still obsessed with this idea of sound/noise/words/language. How do you render sound into words, into language. Sound poetry is one way, of course; but how about working through sound to words. The morning exercises, grunting in a sound-world beyond words. The key in the lock. The distant cars on the top road. The walk. The discussion in the newsagents (The Paper Shop, I've always called it. There's an image.) between Marlene Who Shouts and Mr. Mullis The World's Oldest Paper Boy. The early bus passing, down Snape Hill, slowly, sound.

Later in the morning, my wife and I are going to the Sculpture Park, just a few miles from here at Bretton Hall. It's a gorgeous morning (because it's National Poetry Day!) and there's a David Nash exhibition on, and he does amazingly poetic things with wood.
I tie my boots up, and as I tie them tight I can't resist twanging them like guitar strings. Sound, you see: everywhere.
Off to the Sculpture Park; walking down through the Country Park towards the lake there's not a great deal of sound. Until you listen hard. The footsteps. The birds. A plane low in the sky. The distant motorway. More dilemmas: how do you represent these amazing (lazy word, but they are) sculptures in words? How do you capture the almost inaudible noise the wind makes as you lean towards a metal piece that shudders in the breeze.
In the cafe a boy whistles at a girl. Two notes hanging in the air like that cloud; it's a strangely old fashioned sound, the whistling. It's loaded with political, historical and cultural connotations, too. Almost too much weight for two small notes. Almost too much to think about, as usual. Although the boy talks like those people from Wombwell I wrote about in the first blog.
Off to Wombwell tomorrow. Listening, of course.


This is slightly off topic but I find it interesting how I can like or dislike a word depending on how it sounds. For example I don't like the word "critiquing". I think it is an ugly sounding word. To my ear hearing the word "critiquing" is like the sound of fingernails screeching down a blackboard. I think it is adding "ing" onto the end of a French word that makes it alien to me. Other ugly sounding words (to my ear): critiqued, antiquing, lame (as in 'that's so lame'), microwaveable, ovenable (they are kind of shortcut words instead of proper sentences) etc. This is even more off topic but I have noticed that many editors of great works of literature seem to have fallen in love with the phrases "gently modernised" and "tactfully modernised" (as in "This edition tactfully modernises spelling and punctuation..." and "This edition has been gently modernised throughout..."). I feel they are using the wrong words. A better word to use perhaps would have been "subtly". I also don't like it when editors use developed words like "critiquing" even though they have been added to dictionaries because I think editors of great works of literature/academics should have a love of language. However, everyone is entitled to use these words. My biggest pet peeve: great works of literature that have been edited by Kermit the Frog (this is a metaphor for someone not up to the job). When I read these books I turn into Chef Gordon Ramsey. I was just thinking this morning how I like the word "sonnet". It sounds sonically interesting. It sounds like the ringing clang of two silvery metallic objects colliding.

I would hazard that it depends on where you're coming from. To what extent do you express yourself through the sounds you hear, the sights you see?

First I had to do a search to see if there was such a place as Wombwell, and found there was; which brings me to the sounds we also leave out of hearing or saying, either by a decision of not wanting to hear ( e.g the neighbour's
motormower) or the accent of the language, e.g. Wombwell pronounced Woon-well says Wikipedia.
Thank you for bringing the subject of sounds to our poetic attention, that is going to make me more observant.

Yep, Wombwell's a real place: great name, isn't it!It's not far from Jump...

I am grinning.

Wombell IS a great name - and of course you would not be teasing me about a village called Jump?

I found Jump near Elsecar, thanks to Google and Wikapedia. :))

I am grinning.

Wombell IS a great name - and of course you would not be teasing me about a village called Jump?

I found Jump near Elsecar, thanks to Google and Wikapedia. :))

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A poem of four-line stanzas in which each stanza repeats two lines from the previous stanza.

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