I was reading Matthew Zapruder’s book Why Poetry and I had just finished the chapter called “Dream Meaning” where Matthew talks about the use of associative leaps in poetry and how they are fundamental to writing poetry back all the way to Aristotle’s phrase that poets have “an eye for resemblances.” Matthew observes that associative movement is described in “different ways throughout time and across different cultures.” and he discusses this using a number of poets. One of which is Robert Hass and in particular Hass’ “Meditation at Lagunitas“.
If you you know that poem already or just clicked that link you know it is a poem with many shifting modes, that makes leaps from the philosophical to the personal to the natural world and more. In the discussion in that book those modes are discussed particularly with regard to how the mind works and the fact the title of the poem uses the word “Meditation. So I set out to write something that attempted movements similar to that, trying to mix the personal, the natural and a bit of philosophizing through associative movements.
I’ll make a bit of a leap here to: surrealism as post World War I movement also is important in this discussion of associative movements. According Meriam Webster surrealism is:
the principles, ideals, or practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, film, or theatre by means of unnatural or irrational juxtapositions and combinations
We’re quite used to the idea of the surreal, TV commericials use it regularly now even, but the concepts are useful for writing poetry, especially if used to get at deeper truths rather than just clever weirdness (though clever weirdness can also be very enjoyable to read too).
So this poem’s beginning came from taking a good look at Meditation at Lagunitas and also allowing the writing to move into the surreal. The same idea is used in talk therapy, tapping the unconscious by following associations. Looking for things the conscious mind may not be aware of. The juxtapositions that occur then are similar to what we often experience in dreams, incongruous landscapes, characters and objects populate our dreams.
I thought about that as I set about to make the video. I wanted to enhance what I see as the dream like quality of the poem by using images that weren’t necessarily literal interpretations of the lyrics but perhaps had something that was evoked by the words. For example the looped time lapse footage of me in the rain seemed somehow to be associated with words around blood movement and silence.
An image like the stone cemetery angel brings in something that might not actually be in the poem on the page. Now the viewers mind may start making different associations because they now have those images in mind. And as we cascade through more images while also hearing the poem I think the effect may be quite different than the original poem for many viewers. It was for me, I was kind of surprised by the emotional content of the video which I think is produced by these additional images and associations. And of course the music sets a tone and can evoke a response we don’t get from a poem on a page.
I suppose the Surrealists would agree with that, if you allow the mind to follow the associations you will get art that surprises you from whatever conscious impulse you thought you had when you started.
Hope you appreciate the video. Here’s where you can see thebook that has the poem.
And this video gallery is being developed with funding from: