Imitations: a project
For some weeks I've been considering a new project (having got bored with hopelessness) and I've even taken some tentative steps to test it. Like my lyric sequence this potential project is in part motivated by the completion of an earlier project and that disconcerting feeling that follows and which goes like this: 'I've forgotten how to speak. I am suddenly lost and my voice is either being born or dying a death on my lips'. Standard poet stuff.
I think that's hilarious. That a period of 'speaking', animated by a unique voice for which I am culpable, comes to an end and having ended, suddenly unburdens me of that voice which is mine until I'm apparently hammering on the door of my own inspired soul, my key dropped down a grate somewhere. Obviously my tenancy is up. Undistressed, I then find a new home to crawl into.
It's not the problem of having nothing to say now and needing to choose something in order to produce a new commodity (the internet is morbidly full of writing prompts for that purpose) I'm chock full of urgent malarkey. It's that I no longer know what I sound like, or even what I might sound like. There's an imaginable Cat outside of reality and I must observe her in order to collapse the waveform. Luckily, that sounds like fun.
My idea is to imitate the styles of poems which I enjoy, an exercise that I usually set for creative writing students. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I think about finding my voice in someone else's mouth or mouths, only to realise that it's been me speaking the whole time. This is another way into my favoured purpose of community. Masquerade is not the intention, even if the word 'imitation' implies forgery. Forgery is a technical achievement but the fact of the forgery itself is boring (and anyway, exact copies are really hard and frankly, beyond me) I like the idea of speaking through another only to have found myself having come to be. I wonder if this creates a sort of 'we' by elective affinity, such that both 'I's are preserved, but uncovetously and unpreciously. Would that be a desirable thing? I am rapidly becoming interested in the poetic 'we' and its possible forms, and not 'we' as an anxiety inducing call to group membership, or as a distasteful tax on representation, and especially not as a cry of imperialist nationalism. I wonder how 'we' can speak in very material, positive, real ways.
So far I've written 10 poems in imitation of Adam Warne's Suffolk Bang, a phenomenal pamphlet out from Gatehouse Press (read it read it read it) and I've made a few very tentative attempts at imitating SJ Fowler's Enthusiasm, another phenomenal work from Test Centre (read it read it read it). Bizarrely enough, these attempts very quickly turned into pale echoes of Denise Riley, which is a really enjoyable form of resistance and diversion. What frolicsome push back! It's satisfying to experience just how hard it is to slip into another's space, and how hard it is to skip out of a groove that you didn't know was holding you, the way a hole holds a puddle. Truly, poem-people are strong as rocks.
With a few more tests I might officiate this as a project, news to follow as, when and if anything interesting happens with it.