I am interested in exploring the relationship between poetry/place. In particular, the attempt to strip down language to a documentary poetics (or perhaps an observational poetics) and a radical subjectivity. I have attempted to explore my own subjectivity and its relationship to an alien location in Godzenie (written while living in a coal mining region of Poland for two years) and in my most recent writing project Alien Memory Machine (written while living in South Korea and London).
My own background and early experiences have largely been nomadic. I grew up in Portadown, N. Ireland in an Ulster Scot community. This early experience was one of displacement. Neither Irish nor British. My family left this community for a better life, first in England and then later, when I was 12 years old, to Las Vegas and then Utah to become Mormon. I have shifted my identity many times from Ulster Scot settler in Northern Ireland to Mormon in America to philosophical Buddhist and nomadic traveller. Yet with each of these shifts there seems to be traces of the former self. Each new environment, or place, does not erase or negate the previous identity but further complicates it. I would like to see my personal history as the wake from a travelling ship while also acknowledging a complex past without repressing it.
I have not fully fleshed out my next project, but I would like to use Turkey as my basis of exploration. I would like to explore the alien landscape of Turkey and question how it interacts with my subjectivity and sense of identity. In Godzenie, I attempted to balance this intuitive sense of poetics (going on my nerve) with the use of more objective means to record or document my experiences as a process based poetics. I would like to continue this exploration of how my own subjectivity interacts with culture and place. Using the English language to make the boundaries more fluid between object and subject, academic discourse and personal writing, pathos and logos.
The American/Turkish poet and scholar Murat Nemet-Nejat, in his introduction to Eda as godless Sufism, outlines his idea of Eda in Turkish poetry as thematic, linguistic and metaphysical. All three elements interact with each other in Eda. He argues that English is much more obsessive with subject and object relations than the Turkish language and this is carried over into the thematic and metaphysical concerns of 20th century Turkish poetry. This subject/object obsession in the English language is another area I would like to explore. Perhaps my project can be explored on all three levels:
1) Thematically: my environment in Turkey. The sounds and sights. What is around me. A docu-poetics.
2) Metaphysically: A critical exploration of my own subjectivity and questioning, in an existential sense, my own ontology
3) Linguistically: exploring how English can become fluid in its subject/object distinctions and allow for a critical/radical subjectivity
A few quite recent books of poetry that have influenced my thinking on process-based poetics and place include: Gabe Guddings Rhode Island Notebook (the American sense of the nomadic mixed with the personal and documentary), Jacques Roubaud’s The form of a city changes faster, alas, than the human heart (an exploration of a Paris of the past), the various NY schools of poetry (the lower east side as both site and subject of poetic activity), and Brenda Coultas’ A Handmade Musuem (the Bowery in NY as a frame of mind, a docu-poetics that enacts the fluidity of the subjective and objective nature of place).
Identity and sense of place has also been one of the pre-occupations of my writing and academic coursework. My MA thesis at Western Washington University was called Resident Alien (my status in the United States) and investigated the mind/body split inherited from Plato and my own personal experience of this split as an ex-theist. It has been ten years since I completed my MA, but the same basic obsessions drive my writing. The mind/body, subject/object, identity and place. My strict religious upbringing as LDS (or Mormon) also has a large influence on these binaries. We are resident aliens of the earth (heaven is our true home) our bodies are temporary vessels and so on. I have also felt this delusional mind/body split in terms of critical and creative in my academic career. By exploring a process-based poetics in Turkey, I would like to acknowledge and attempt to move beyond these various binaries (mind/body, subject/object, spiritual/profane, the mind as place/the political and geographical as place).