Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Overdrive Moment

When writing poetry, I carry certain snippets with me, sparks that I aspire to creating. Many have been with me for years. Chief among them is one from Ted Hughes in his excellent introduction to to my battered OUP edition of Keith Douglas' Complete Poems (still one of my favourite books fifteen years later).

Hughes compares Keith Douglas to Elizabeth Bishop, highlighting several shared qualities such as the "subjective accompaniment to an...objective outlook", before homing in on a key difference:

"Comparing the two, it is surprising to find that...she knew nothing of that overdrive moment in Douglas, that effect of sudden foreshortening, the abrupt impatient short-cut where his seriousness opens and he arrives at the core of his inspiration..."

I still remember my first reading of that statement, a clear and consise explanation of what I relished most about Douglas' poetry and wanted to capture for myself. Even now, it's always at the forefront of my mind as I open my notebook.

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