Category: Knowing & unknowing

Process and knowing

Hello poets and readers,

Poets need to be able to inhabit the place of unknowing, in order to bring new realisations, techniques, forms and processes into the known world. In an article recently published in TEXT, ‘A New Suite: The Process of Knowing through Poetry’, I highlight the fact that the noun ‘knowledge’ is unnecessarily privileged in western writing, compared with the verb ‘knowing’, and emphasise that knowing how to do something is the most important aspect of knowledge. That knowing how to do something is what matters most is an idea found in various forms in writers as diverse as Aristotle (the knowledge of how to make things); William Carlos Williams (knowledge as ‘a living current’); Mark Johnson (knowing as a process of inquiry); and Jen Webb (poets offering ‘new ways of knowing and doing’). These are all descriptions of active states characterised by the verb ‘to know’. But we don’t always know how to do something until we’re doing it and working it out in process.

In the article, I show that articulating a full description of poetry composition from inspiration to the final stages of editing demonstrates that artistic knowledge is best defined as a process of knowing. The essay is a hybrid which presents a group of poems I wrote in response to the second Poetry on the Move festival at the University of Canberra in 2016. I discuss poems and approaches by Samoan-born, New Zealand-based poet Tusiata Avia and Simon Armitage, Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, who were poets-in-residence at the festival. The article tracks the drafts of my poems and the editing process, reflecting on the ways in which I work with unknowing and how knowledge emerges through the poems. The poems concern the topics of knowing and observing the world; knowing memory and integrating the past with the present; and knowing the body. They embrace embodiment, imagination and biography, conscious of antagonisms between memory and the present. You can read the full article here.

Philip Gross and collaboration

Hello poets and readers,

I recently revisited the text of UK poet Philip Gross’ keynote speech ‘Together in the Space Between: Collaboration as a Window on Creative Process’ given at the Poetry on the Move festival in 2015 and later published in Axon. Gross has had the advantage of a number of productive creative collaborations, both with artists from other media and, less commonly, with a fellow writer. Early in his career, he worked in a mixed group of painters and musicians from several traditions gathered around John Eaves’ huge charcoal drawings of Stonehenge, a collaboration which was extended to include the artist FJ Kennedy. The topic of Stonehenge is one shrouded in unknowing, which was deemed inviting to creative adventure, to leaving behind preconceived notions and to improvising.

Amy Lowell and the subconscious

Hello poets and readers,

One of the first pieces of writing I remember reading about process is Amy Lowell’s essay ‘The Process of Making Poetry’ (from a book originally published in 1930). Lowell was an early shaker in the Imagist movement, and experimented with lineation and what we now call prose poetry. She also wrote haiku and is anthologised in the recent Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years.

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