Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Worms of Light

07:30:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , , , 2 comments
I'm afraid that poets are pointing things out, very carefully, but their indexes are impossible to read.  Even when a poem speaks to me I fail to communicate exactly what it was saying, or even specify the language.  Poetry is like any other piece of art.  It's communicating an idea that, ideally, is unable to be stated plainly.  Therefore, the knowledge - if that's what it is - contained in poems is nebulous. 

Reading poetry is like studying a subject for which you have no use - yet.  The images and ideas stream into your experience.  Sometimes only incomplete snippets make it through with the rest forgotten. 

Writing poetry is like labelling the images and ideas which don't fit neatly in your mental drawers.  It's wrangling the ideas with legs and persuading them to stand still rather than running back into the dark.   

But labelling is not the same as organising categorically.  The poems are captured in beautiful glass jars and the labels are written in an intricate script but, though the shelves look neat and ordered, the these collections are not fit for a museum.  Poems are cabinets of oddities and poetry books are curiosity shops.  Don't walk in expecting to find that which you seek.  Expect to be delighted by the lambent trinket, covered in dust. 

from Paracelsus by Diane di Prima


the tar, the sticky
                                of things
(each plant a star,        extract

the juice of stars
                                by circular stillation
            the inner man w/the coction
till he burn
            like worms of light in quicksilver
not the false
            puffballs of marshfire,

Paracelsus' Salamander



Lara Clayton said...


I've only just had the opportunity to read this, but as always I'm left pleased that I did.

"Poems are cabinets of oddities and poetry books are curiosity shops." This is perhaps one of the best analogies for poetry I've discovered - jealous that I didn't write it :)

Colin Davies said...

I concur with Lara.

I would love you to expand upon this as I think it is an amazing opening to a beautiful study of poetry.