Platforms

Yesterday a literature development worker who runs many education projects said that she’s concluded that she thinks artistic expression for it’s own sake is a good thing- if people can express themselves interestingly and powerfully, then others may be more inclined to listen to what they have to say. I asked if she thought it was also her responsibility to provide the platforms for them to say it, or whether that should be for other social bodies- but she said she thought they should provide platforms too.

I realised that despite the fact that I surely have many more platforms than lots of people, the feeling of not having them is still strong. A bit of a pathological block I’d say. Similar to the class barrier that, for example, Paul Merton was talking about in a Guardian interview last week, when his Dad said there was nothing “over there”, meaning that going “over there” wasn’t even to be contemplated for the likes of him.

I’m reading a cheery book about The Monster of Florence serial killing case and it’s unravelling and have just turned down a page on which a psychoanalyst monk gives the journalist protagonist his definition of evil. He plays on the fact that the Italian word for “evil” and “sickness” is the same-male– and that the word for “speech” and “study” is the same-discorso. Pathology can be defined as discorso sul male- study of sickness or evil. But he prefers to define it as male che parla- Evil (or sickness) that speaks. He says; “There is no longer true communication among us because our language is sick and the sickness of our discourse carries us inevitably to sickness in our bodies. When I can no longer communicate with speech I will speak with sickness. My symptoms are given life. These symptoms express the need for my soul to make itself heard, but it cannot because I don’t have the words and because those who should listen cannot get beyond the sound of their own voices” .

It chimed so strongly with me because in my disillusionment with the idea of being a poet as a career, I thought that really what I have believed in most strongly in my work as a poet is the idea of an alternative discourse that can undercut, illuminate or add to other discourses; those of the media, politics, the sciences or the everyday. My favourite discourse for making sense of my inner world is that of psychology and psychoanalysis but poetry can compensate for, or add to that hugely too.

Maybe, added to my pathological paranoia about not having a platform, is the frustration at only having the one discourse-poetry- to be asked to contribute in, when it’s the interweaving of them that I think is most powerful. Shut up and give us a poem. Anyway, this prosaic blog is a platform of some sort, so perhaps I should use it.

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