Inspiration from Allen Ginsberg: Sutras

Hello one and all, well, at least one.

I’m writing at the moment, working on a new poem called Birthday Sutra for a reading on the eve of my 35th birthday (which seems a good time to sum) at the Sutton Gallery in Edinburgh. The event is listed here, and starts at 7pm on 21st May, 2014.

Here’s the first para of current Wikipedia article on Sutra, to give an idea of what my poem form might be:
‘A sutra (Sanskritसूत्रPālisuttaArdhamagadhisūya) is an aphorism or a collection of aphorisms in the form of a manual or, more broadly, a text in Hinduismor Buddhism. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew’

The inspiration for my poem is loosely Allen Ginsberg and his oracular ‘sutra’ poems.  Here’s his Wichita Vortex Sutra text, and also a composition version of it with Philip Glass at the piano. May it fire up my imagination to similarly visionary heights!

http://mythofamerica.tumblr.com/post/9068001226/wichita-vortex-sutra

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Hidden Door Festival film and print contributions from Iain Morrison

SJ Fowler’s Camarade night has been and gone from Edinburgh’s Hidden Door Fest (which punches on until this Saturday 5 April, ’14). But there are videos, mes braves. Here’s the one of mine and Colin Herd’s collaboration Colinthian Hidden Dooric Iainic.  We were taking inspiration from planning documents for the street where the festival is being held, and trying a bit of musical experiment along the way. Watching the documentation, I’ve enjoyed thinking about how what Colin and I were doing related to my previous metrical music and poetry efforts for Syndicate last year, with Lila Matsumoto and Atzi Muramatsu.

And also, Roween Suess has published the 4 comissioned poems (including one from me) for her Hidden Door exhibition here. Double whammy of Morrison poetry. Double whammies all round really, what with all the paired poets reading at SJ’s night, and on his poets and artists walking tour in the afternoon. I’d strongly encourage you to look at the other uploads from his youtube channel if you want to get an effective sampler of many of the most exciting poet voices in Edinburgh(+) at the moment.

Iain Morrison poem for Roween Suess Scopien Tele Telos

Roween’s drawing and my poem for Scopien Tele Telos, her sculpture which inspired it.

 

Iain Morrison at Caesura this Friday, 8 Nov 2013

Hotly anticipating my return to Graeme Smith’s excellent, and much engorged, Caesura spoken word night. That is, if I’m allowed to hotly anticipate myself (Vanity thy name is Morrison).

Graeme pointed out on the facebook event today that the last time I read with them was at Caesura  #4. Well, they’re up to Caesura edition #18 now and have been busily accruing their reputation as “the voice event of the only real literary avant garde in Edinburgh” (as Martin Belk put it). Basically they’ve upped the ante and I’m going to have to raise my game.

I have worked hard on this, though, so am hoping to pull off some sort of credible reading of my new longish poem ‘Hippocrener’ without getting too soaked from bottles of beer/piss thrown at me by the now alarmingly swollen crowd of regular Caesura aesthetes. It’s good that they’re vocal, I tell myself now, before stepping into the ring. That’s the point, right…?

Here’s a giddy extract from Hippocrener for any keenos wanting to ostentatiously nod along/off at the appropriate moment (encouraged behaviour. I am vain, remember) 🙂

‘Bod bud, soft-porn is an attractive category, promising not to bruise;

show me the rib and show me the rib only.

Unmoved much to care, electrolytic Hippocrener, Diabolus in Musica, hemiola utterer, ghost in the machine,

do I consdescend (to myself) to estimate what percentile of the populace my voice can speak for or, failing, over?

Engagement and interaction vs. truth-shout vis-a-vis personal experience.

Variable isn’t when or who

so much as how it represents a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative or similar sound, velarized.’

Hope to see some of you upstairs at The Artisan Bar. Night starts at 7pm-ish I believe. Entry by donation according to Graeme Smith’s The Goodnight Press website. Many talents on the bill: Sandra Allan, Karen Veitch, James Leveque, Graeme Smith, (me).

Drafting on the move, Scotrail-style

I like writing on trains. Nice to be back with a pen in hand for redrafts too. This is me back in June working on a poem about the Forth estuary and industry on a train from Fife to Edinburgh, appropriately enough.

Iain Morrison writing on the train

I read a version of this poem, Tied, at David Faithfull’s recent Earth, Wind & Fission exhibition in Haddington at the Peter Potter Gallery recently. Also reading was Samantha Walton, and we interleaved our poems on related Forth valley subjects. We’re hoping to get them into print together at some point. TBC.

 

Bees, Basho, Blossom, Brogdale.

As interlude to the Emily Dickinson discussion, a nicely crafted project of artist/poet Alec Finlay’s. Alec asked a variety of poets to translate Basho’s famous haiku about a bee reluctantly leaving a peony flower, and then hung his gathered translations in blossoming trees in Kent. There are some great responses to the mission, and I felt I’d had a whizz-bang masterclass in the possibilities and strategies of translation after I’d read the resulting collection through.

Here’s Luke Allan’s photo of my humble (bumble?) contribution.

Iain Morrison's Basho translation for Alec Finlay

And lastly, Emily Dickinson does still get a look in! Ken Cockburn has fashioned one of his translations in fine tribute to her.

Subject Index Day 4: Putting the brakes on Emily Dickinson

I’m going to write up Day 4 of Subject Index in parts.

This final day wound round the houses a little in my ordering of the poems as, knowing I wasn’t going to be able to read all of the remaining poems, I tried to navigate a suitable closing path for the 4-day process of Subject Index. The first part of the day saw me reading for 5 hours, on my own or with Mirja present filming and listening. This took me from Johnson edition number 751 to 972 – slow-goingly, satisfyingly, slightly despairing of not having made it further than the year 1864 of Dickinson’s life.

I stopped for a quick breather and a sandwich across the road at my flat and came back for an evening session which 10 visitors turned up to at various times (I love you energy-giving audients!), and I attempted to execute a reading of the last dated poems in Johnson’s edition. I picked up at poem 1509, having leapt forward sixteen years of Emily’s life to 1881. This was frustrating, as I could sense a big change in the form of what I was reading, and I’d hoped to chart the changes incrementally all the way through her writing life. It was not to be, however, and not just because of the chunk I skipped over in the book, but also because at this end of her writing career, the poems simply aren’t coming as thick and fast, so you don’t get the same illusion of poems appearing at the rate of living. You can’t settle into them either, they’re mostly very short, and because I was mapping them too, I was up and down every thirty seconds to record a number on the board. I read in this way from 1509 through to number 1648, dated 1886, the year of her death.

Then! I realised I still had another half an hour left. I’d misjudged the timings because there were so many short poems in this section. I was frankly unsure what to do with my last half an hour in Emily’s clothes. Well, like in some of her celebrated poetry, the consciousness continued past death and I tentatively read on through 1649, 1650 and 1651 in the ‘undated poems’ section. This was enough to convince me, given what felt like a sudden thickening intensity of the poems’ thought-weave, to go back to where I had left off, at 973, where I remembered that same satisfying feeling, and to read from there onwards until closing time came at Argyle House.

I hoped that it would be enjoyable for those still listening to hear some longer, more wrung poems at the end of the vigil. A relief for me too to be in the middle of her writing life again, strategic decisions past and the course set in that last half hour.  I got as far as poem 1017.

In the next posts I’ll talk a bit more about the poems I read on the last day and what I found. For now, here’s an image of the map I made in its finished (for now) state. I think it looks pleasingly geographical! I had a conversation with Stevie from ForestCentre+ in the pub after about how the map might be given a digital afterlife, allowing people to click through to poems from their position on the map, so I’ll keep you posted if I pull that off at any point.

Emily Dickinson world map of her poems

Scree 6

Am very pleased to be among the poets featured in the latest issue of Lila Matsumoto’s Scree Magazine. Inspired by 60’s small press magazines like Hamilton Finlay’s Poor Old Tired Horse, Lila retypes all of the included poems on an actual old-school typewriter, which is a lovely thing to imagine happening to one of your poems.

There are some great things in this issue, including work by Calum Rodger and Gerry Loose.

Details of how to get hold of one are on this link. The theme of the issue is…SPACE!

So, anyway, Iain Morrison poem in Soanyway Magazine

‘Soanyway is an online repository of words, pictures and sounds that tell stories. We interpret story broadly, considering it in relation to fact and fiction, narration or implication, and structure or a lack of it. We also regard most history, theory and critique as stories about stories.’

 

I’m happily included in the latest issue of online arts magazine Soanyway.

Soanyway, online since 2008, is currently edited by poet Claire Potter, who I had the pleasure of reading with last year. The title of the current issue is Interlingual and my poem playfully charts some of the anxieties of influence within my beloved scene here in Edinburgh.

I hope you enjoy reading the issue and discovering its many voices. Why not submit something for their next?

 

My Zoe Fothergill Collaboration. The correspondence file continues!

Jan the 9th and high time I posted further links in my email chain with artist Zoe Fothergill. The last post was in November I see. Check there please if you’re at sea with what’s going on below. Basically we’re collaborating and working towards a performance lecture on structure and content.

 

Iain Morrison said:

Hi it’s me! I’ve been in writing-thinking-blogging-Zoe+Iain-land tonight. Have done lots of thinking and I’ve put one new blog up, with two more written and set to auto-publish during the week. So that means my blog should be catching up with our correspondence.

Here’s a reply to your email from the 5th November. I hope it’s interesting. I have an idea that it might be fun for us to both reply, quiz or questionnaire-style, to a series of questions about form and structure. I think, now, that we pretty-much know where we’re at with what we’re thinking of, but it might be useful to capture it for the project and could generate some interesting text. Anyway, I have some idea, but will send in a separate email. Here’s my reply to your reply to my reply from before.

So,

I thought your paragraph on the difference between structure and form was excellent. It answered a lot of the questions I had about where you see the difference. You wrote:

 

‘ok so i say structure because i think it’s far more precise.

form has many more interpretations for me.

and oed agrees so it must be right – pasted below

but maybe the more openended nature of form appeals to you more

i guess for me structure feels more inside

more understanding relations within

and form is a step remove

surveying the whole

what say you?’

 

Having looked at the OED definitions of form and structure, I think I understand a difference that form is somehow about what can be perceived visually (possibly not that different in an artwork or a poem actually), where structure takes into account the inner organisation of an artefact. So form=externally visible and structure=external and internal organisation.

This raises the interesting possibility just now in my head, of a see-through artwork. Can you think of any?

I notice that a word that comes up in both definitions is ‘arrangement’. The definition of form in the OED’s definition list that came closest to what I think I’ve been thinking of was

‘[mass noun] style, design, and arrangement in an artistic work as distinct from its content: these videos are a triumph of form over content’

I also love the idea of a ‘mass noun’. Cool!

You wonder if it’s the open-endedness of form which attracts me. I think what I like about ‘form’ as a word to use in this discussion is that it’s often set up as, not exactly the opposite of, but certainly the counterpart to ‘content’, so it comes out of my mouth/fingers naturally. It has a valency, history of use. Maybe that makes it too cosy to use now unthinkingly. A bit hackneyed.

As I think you say, the Andrew Grassie flips apparent content into a place less-important than the structure. The content doesn’t become the meaning and the structure does. What’re we left looking at? It’s more than our own perception, isn’t it? You talked about ghosts.

You say that the structure (meaning the process here?) becomes the principal subject. I’d like to hear what you think might be secondary subjects in this Grassie work too.

I can see a dance of meaning happening in his work. You’re presented with a formal question about what’s going on, how were the images generated, is it  a photo, is the content the artist’s work, no it seems so various, oh it’s a painting, hang on, I’m in the space depicted in the painting, but where have the objects gone, oh, this painting is made from the exact same view-point you would look through if the canvas were a window. Then once you’ve worked it all out, a second stage of interpretation happens. Why these works? Why has he done this? Why these materials? Questions which don’t have such straightforward answers as the formal ones. But I’m interested in that initial period in which we’re wooed by the work, and the game, the puzzle, keeps you looking longer – it makes it something happening in time maybe?

The submitted art he lets into his process seems effectively repressed and literally flattened/walked away from. I’m intrigued. Thanks for introducing me to this artist.

I can see what you mean about it possibly losing its meaning if you move it to a different venue. That’s a thing with site specific isn’t it? Cake, eating it perhaps. Did I tell you ever that I once misheard people talking about what I thought was ‘Site-Specific: The Musical’? I eventually realised that they were talking about ‘South Pacific’! I had a massive LOL about that.

I love structure/stricture. That’s a very nice sleight of word just there that you’ve introduced me to.

I’m interested in what you say about translation. I wonder if we could play some sort of translation game as a way of interrogating the ‘thisness’ of something. I wonder how we might do it with words and then also with something visual. Any thoughts?

You do read my poems very well. I was grateful to read your reponse to ‘in relation to’ that picked up elements that had interested me around the prefixed/non-prefixed (fixed?!) vocab, and I like that it had that effect of involving you in its play as it reached its conclusion(s). I wonder if sometimes the answer to the question ‘what is it about?’ has two answers: one which centres on the content and one which centres on the form/structure? So in the case of my poem I could say it’s about the extent to which you can relate to someone and which differences are insoluble, but I could also say it’s about moving forwards through a syntax structure and then unpicking what’s been created backwards to see where you end up. Maybe? Or maybe the second bit is the answer to the question ‘how does it convey its meaning?’, but I don’t think it’s that exactly. To say the meaning is housed in the structure implies a possible separation of the two. Maybe there are just two separate processes going on in an artwork and the trick is to manage the symbiotic relationship between them with you as the magi?

Iain x