Sunday, 1 November 2009

Eye, eye, I

Your eye is no eye but an exit wound

This line is from 'Phantom', Don Paterson's elegy for Michael Donaghy in his new collection 'Rain'

It is occupying my thoughts a great deal and hearing the line, in thought, rather than reading it on the page inevitably foregrounds the connection between eye and I, which sets off further layers of meaning to turn over and prod at.

Last time I fixated on a line of poetry this way, it was John Burnside's No-one invents an absence (From the book 'Gift Songs'); it is slippery to think about and the more I thought about it, the more amorphous it became. It sqautted in my hind brain like a toad in a cellar for about 4 months and I couldn't think about anything else but it did generate a series of poems.

But I need time to think; I am in the middle of a round of funding bid writing at work and that tends to get in the way of poetry as it takes language in a different direction. When work is demanding in other ways - for instance working with a very challenging group of young people - it doesn't get in the way of poetry even though it is absorbing and draining. But bid-writing, I suppose because it is writing rather than verbal, seems to suck up my words like a black hole. I could do with taking some time off but have leave booked for other things (Derwent Poetry Festival, reading at Poetry Bites, graduation day for my MA). I also have interviews to get done for Iota, papers I need to write for conferences and journals, and work to do towards a new litfest I'm involved in next spring.

Your eye is no eye but an exit wound is demanding my focus and attention and I know from experience that I need to listen so I will have to book some evenings: not take work home, unplug the phone and hope for no family crises or demands.


  1. That is one hell of a metaphor, I'll grant you.

    I feel your pain. Work is going very well for me but also is more demanding than it's ever been.

  2. It's one of the great coincidences of the English language, eye and I. Some of my favourite plays on this are Dylan's: "I and I: one said to the other 'no man sees my face and lives'." Because of course seeing is done by eye/I, etc... Also in 'Hurricane' the pronunciation of 'he told them he could eye-dentify the guilty man'. or I-dentify, if you wish. The play on meaning and sound brings it more layers about the self, etc.