The last few posts have been fairly rural – which is reasonable given where I am at the moment. But to carry on from yesterday’s insomnia, I’ve dug out this older, rather more urban piece:
Sounds rise through plaster, wood and dust; they twist
between the ceiling joists, and round ceramic tiles to twine
with moonlight, drifting, woven in dreams, until
they filter into consciousness. Then,
there are no more dreams:
the sounds contract
to words as hard
and tight as fists that punch
into the sobbing night.
I hear the darkness
catch its breath
and a banshee wail
drags the dawn
I think that must have been written around six years ago – and I’m still not happy with the line breaks – and I remember clearly the noises at night in the block of flats where I was living that inspired it.
I also remember the discussions at the local poetry workshop about that final “banshee wail”. I know perfectly well what I mean by it: it really is intended to be a specific sound.
I don’t think anyone at the group understood, though, and there was a lot of discussion about how important it is to know what the poet means by every phrase. I don’t think it is particularly important: even if the phrase in question may reveal the specific intention of the whole piece, there may be other interpretations and the reader may still get something out of the reading.
There’s far more to poetry than concrete images, and we all bring our own preconceptions and cultural background to our readings, so ‘understanding’ is not a single fixed state.
It’s impossible to be aware of everything a writer had in mind when they wrote a poem. My recently posted poem, time passes, (which has now been redrafted several times) was given that title in reference to Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood. Anyone who recognised the phrase will get, perhaps, a tiny bit more out of the idea. And anyone who knows the longer quotation “Time passes. Listen. Time Passes.” may get even more.
But in reality, I had forgotten the longer quotation, so the reader who has a deeper knowledge of Under Milkwood may give me credit for something I was unaware of when I alluded to it.
Sometimes even the writer doesn’t quite know what they have written.