Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Poets on their Pamphlets: Ruth Wiggins on poetry and 2D vision

There's just over a month left in our annual call for poetry and prose pamphlet submissions (deadline: 13th December), so I've asked some more of our pamphlet poets to share an aspect of their pamphlet-creating experience on this blog, to join our Poets on their Pamphlets series. I hope that this will be inspiring to people who are thinking of sending us something or in the process of assembling their submission.

Ruth Wiggins
This week, Ruth Wiggins explains what it's like to see the world in just two dimensions and considers the effect this might have had on her poetry. We published Ruth's debut pamphlet, Myrtle, almost exactly a year ago and we have always found her worldview uniquely bracing and reassuring, so it's fascinating to get a further insight into the way she writes.

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What It's Like, by Ruth Wiggins

Against Perspective 
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)
A friend once described my poetry as 'falling in', which fits because the world certainly feels that way. I find natural and urban landscapes equally absorbing. Things that move give me a sense of depth, which is great, but spiders are endlessly alarming. Tricky when the room you work in is spider city. I have always enjoyed photography, and tend to take wide aperture shots of something in close focus surrounded by a lot of edge blur, which feels like an extension of this.

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

1 comment:

  1. Ah, found you - looking for
    Translated poems by Anna
    Akhmatova, way after midnight.
    Your pamphlet is space flight
    Compared to my little kites,
    But fly you up there, small
    Bird, and learn again the true
    Length of that wild, comet-tail.

    Much love from Fiona-on-the-Moor XxX