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What It's Like, by Ruth Wiggins
At this vantage I am
m a s s i v e
work the green with my fists
like a suckling cat
guzzle up g r o u n d w a t e r
draughts of sap
I have a lazy eye, or as it's more correctly known, amblyopia. I can't see Magic Eye pictures and 3-D films are torture. It's quite common, but what people tend not to know is that it destroys depth perception. It doesn't affect my driving, but I have a sorry history of broken toes, ankles & crockery. When people ask what it is like to see the world in 2-D, I usually answer, 'It's like this!' (Holds flat of hand to face.) It is less like seeing the world, and more like colliding with it.
Perhaps inevitably, this has an impact on my poetry. Emma was very supportive when we were putting Myrtle together, and not least when I decided to open my pamphlet with a short, oddly-typeset piece called 'Against Perspective', a poem that had become something of a totem for the way I physically see the world.
|What it's like... (photos by Ruth)|
When I look at the poems in Myrtle, I am struck by how many lines also bear out this wonky perspective: newly solid / with three dimensions of pink is some kind of wish-fulfilment; from which vantage point the ambush will spring, for 'ambush' read ANYTHING but particularly spiders; Curse the kindness of the rocks that jut, yet / will not wreck, demonstrates my need for trust in the solid universe; and Forces open the sky – any vista pretty much covers the impact of swooping birds.
Although not a defining credo, I enjoy the precise aesthetic of the Imagist poets, largely because they have that same crashing-onto-the-retina effect. And I particularly enjoy poems that wormhole you into a physical world, such that you really arrive there. Poems that take you wading through the physical, in a way that is both sensual and abstract and which in turn pushes the brain to engage beyond the 'this is how it looked'.
Here are a few lines from Alice Oswald's tremendous poem 'Tithonus' that really encapsulate this idea of perception colliding with the universe –
the dawn // which is a wall of green // which is a small field sliding at / the speed of light // straight through the house and on / to the surface of the eye... and that is exactly what it's like.
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Myrtle, by Ruth Wiggins, is available in paperback (£6.50) and ebook (£4.25). She keeps a blog at Mudpath.
Our open call for poetry and prose pamphlet submissions ends on 13th December 2015. Full details can be found here.