Thursday, January 12, 2012

Finding and Making

Welcome. As well as being a window onto my writing, I envisage this blog as a kind of public notebook, not of an entirely casual kind, but as a rolling discourse on things that matter to me, particularly in poetry and the life of ideas, the ways in which we constitute reality, and the way reality is constituted for us.

I have kept journals of ideas, first thoughts, observations, and seed-beds for poems for many years – writing I now regard as books in the making – and amongst other things, this blog will, I hope, extend that process into a new sphere of activity. (Though I won’t burden you with unfinished poems.) For all sorts of reasons, the time feels right to open up something of my methods in this way.

I thought I’d start with one principle that often recurs in my thinking – and will probably arise frequently, in one form or another, on this blog. It consists in the experience of a paradox, in which the act of finding is one and the same with the act of making, and the act of making is one and the same with the act of finding. To find generally supposes the discovery of something that already exists, independently of you, which you didn’t know about before. To make generally supposes the production of something that didn’t already exist. Put another way, to find is to receive, and to make is to generate – to give of yourself, as it were. Logically, then, to find and to make are quite different things. And yet, in the kind of experience I’m talking about, these occur at one and the same time.

For me, this describes the order of experience involved in writing poems. It is one of the things I crave in the act of composition, and explains how poems, to my mind, become a form of knowledge – something found in the act of making, and made in the act of finding. To write is to read, and it follows naturally that the act of reading itself involves finding and making, receiving and generating. A poem is an experiential theatre, in which the mind can think sensuously – i.e., through the imagination: the realising power, which remains open to the unknown, and so becomes the source and conduit of new knowledge. This is no less real, nor less respectable to right minded people, than analytic thinking – in fact, when it comes off, it is more subtle, entire and authoritative, because it works on us both viscerally and intellectually: through what is made present and what is invoked. In this way, poetry is a medium of human exploration, no less than science. And in poetry, the experience of knowing remains not only motile and open-ended, but vitally personal: its truths touch and feel, arrive like a scent.

In its fusion of finding and making, poetry says what could not otherwise be said. This is why the best poems disturb, amplify and expand our being. And this, dear reader, is what still – against all the odds – stakes a place for poetry at the centre of cultural life.


Linda C. said...

Welcome to the blogosphere.

Ross Iightly said...

Good luck with the blog - I hope it can be a creative tool for you. Ross Kightly.

Ross Iightly said...

That should have read Ross Kightly - how could I have done that - I look forward to the blog entries in the future... Ross Kightly

Tim Love said...


"The essential fault of surrealism is that it invents without discovering", Stevens,

"Nothing deep turns on the choice between these two phrases - between the imagery of making and finding ... Physics is the paradigm of 'finding' simply because it is hard (at least in the West) to tell a story of changing physical universes against the background of an unchanging Moral Law or poetic canon, but very easy to tell the reverse sort of story", Rorty

I don't understand the Rorty quote. I think Mathematicians sometimes wonder whether their discoveries are inventions. In theoretical physics things are sometimes invented then later discovered. I think anti-matter was first an elegant construction, something beautiful enough to be true.

Gregory Leadbetter said...

Many thanks for your good wishes.

Tim - thanks for this. I love the Stevens quotation.