Thursday, 28 June 2007

Global folderisation, naming of parts and Henry Reed

I did a reading in Cambridge this week and released some very new poems into the wild. I always have ambivalent feelings on such occasions as the poems you have nurtured and sweated over take to the public hills instead of being at home, safe and warm in my computer, navigated to via the folder marked poems, a subsequent sub-folder marked Newer Poems and a sub–sub-folder entitled Poems 2007. In such a folder I am secure that these poems are at the heart of my cyber Russian Doll. Of course within this sub-sub folder and beyond I have other category folders…poems about, women, men, relationships, children, work, art works, political situations, physical landscape, transport, weather, religion, animals are just a few of the folders.

The nature of poetry is such that I need to copy a poem into two or three folders. If I start feeling that it needs to be in five or seven folders I take a tablet and a glass of wine and lie down in a darkened room until the filing voices in my head stop. Women, relationships, weather is fine. Men, women, art works, landscape, animals, transport, religion may be a poem about Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Caraveggio but the poem may be about something entirely different but then it is also about the painting as well. Subtle and not so subtle subtext and Microsoft make for strange bedfellows.

Mr Gates is allegedly (shhh he may have official scanners out there waiting to sue) more than a little challenged on the social interface front, maybe even slightly Asperger’s. This may have led to him producing his wonderful facilities for micro categorisation, storage and labelling developed in his software programmes. If you can fix something as this, label it, it becomes more manageable. It is something like the ancient magic and power associated with the naming of names, common in many cultures. If you are named you are an entity that can be managed and related to. If I am placed in a folder, low annual salary, and copied to sub folders of low occupational status, female, unmarried mother, lover of soaps, over fifty. You may have a rough idea who I am and how you could relate to me. Of course the joy of being human is that you don’t have a clue. I do belong in all of those folders but many more and none of them necessarily more important than the other.

Is the soul of this poet being sullied by the generation of endless folders, am I in danger of filing meltdown, will I be driven to making whole folders that contain only one poem, as each poem by its very nature is individual and unique to itself in content and subtext? Even if I file by date, what date should I file them under? Some poems have lain in wait for me for years or have started their life in one form and one year and metamorphed into something different several years on. Is there a compulsive-obsessional phobia for the naming and storage of virtual folders?

Why do I feel this need to folder a poem anyway? I am not, dear reader, an intrinsically tidy or anal person (although the Boo might regard my pleas for her to put her stuff away as a teenager was a strong indication of such tendencies). Am I just odd? Indeed I probably am but my answer to all of this is simple…. bad memory. If I place a poem in a number of folders I might be able to find the bloody thing more easily and quickly when I can’t remember the exact title for a search with that sniffy overly happy puppy thing that pops up in Microsoft. Example…I think I wrote a poem about a painting about the flight into Egypt but I know I didn’t call it that …there was a donkey in the picture I vaguely recall and an angel too; nip into the art folder,animal folder and religion folder find that one poem occurs in all three entitled Pit Stop (which is also copied by the way into the transport poem folder should my brain have gone the donkey as transport route). Thus poem is deftly located.

Do not flood me dear reader with better ways of keeping my poems in the computer, this way works for me. I am sure if you examine your own computer folders your own idiosyncratic methods will emerge that are as clear as consommé to you and a total mystery to others. Much like the art of navigating through a poem sometimes, we bring our own folders and our own power of being precise in our identification of what we feel are its attributes.

Judging Distances a poem by Henry Reed, more famous for his poem ‘Naming of Parts’ perhaps beautifully describes the difference between clinical and precise attribution and what is actually experienced by the observer and by the observed. I have always thought this a more interesting poem than his other more famous one.

I may love my virtual pigeon holes for poems but I am well aware that nothing really ever fits and long may it be so.

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