The Sense of Poetry
Are you sensitive enough to be writing poetry?
Can you imagine writing about birdsong if you lost your hearing overnight or had been born deaf? If, like me, you lost your sight, how would you describe the colours in the botanical gardens or the unease of a shadowy path along the canal? If you suffer from Anosmia, a loss of smell or taste, how would your characters experience limes in a glass of gin, or strawberries at Wimbledon or a chocolate milkshake or the scent of your lady's perfume or your partner's farts?
You don't need eyes to see / you need vision (Faithless, 'Reverence')
I had a good 30 years of seeing colours so I have a lot of memories to draw on, which I am grateful for; but I do think about whether my writing would be different if I didn't have those recollections. Without wanting to presume how deaf writers write about sound for example, I do often think about how the world would feel with a different set of senses.
If I had sight but no taste (no smart arse comments there please, haha!) then I might notice the thickness of a chocolate milkshake and want to describe it like a sticky swamp sucking me into it in an oozy hippapotomous wallow, with cream on the top subtly making a moustache along my top lip. I hope I'd find the experience almost as luxurious even without the taste of the chocolate, but there might be moods in which a chocolate milkshake devoid of taste felt cloying as it coated the back of my throat.
We are used to people experiencing taste differently — are you a Marmite lover or hater? — Some people dislike the taste of onions or anchovies, others dislike Welsh bara lawr (laverbread) or blue cheese; but I assume that is a very different experience from a total absence of taste, or sound, or for me sight.
In a week's time I'm going to be recording an episode of Brum Radio's poetry show, hosted by Helen Calcutt. We will be talking about poetry and blindness, and how difficult it can be to imagine not having the sense of sight if you are yourself sighted. Helen held a workshop for MA students, looking at writing through the senses, when she took away the sense of sight, the students found it very difficult to tap into their other senses. Helen says "when I asked them to describe a colour to the person next to them as if they had no ability to see, they struggled all the more."
I will post an update on this site, and on my Facebook and Twitter timelines with links to listen to the show when it airs, and I look forward to hearing how you get on expanding the sense-range of your poems — be a sensitive poet :)
#Blindness #Deafness #Anosmia #Poetry #Radio #RadioBrum
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