Friday, December 26, 2008

The Ghost Notebook 1

I noticed in my recent self-hypnosis sessions (a nice and oddly seasonal way to send yourself to sleep) that I was putting the lost notebook to quite another use: ghost-writing new entries.

Specifically, in the Hypnopompics, I find myself noting down those texts or fragments thereof I've been composing in the dreamworld. (My sleep world equator of the Dead Zone of the true middle of the nacht is approached through the Madrugada Straits, thence into the Hypnogogics. After a refreshing taza de chocolate caliente with Christopher Walken's hair, it's back out via the Hypnopompics before landing on the Bloody Radio Fourland.)

I tend to have flicked to the back of the Lost Notebook for this purpose, finding myself a clean page rather as one turns over the pillow, and noting down those remarks I have for years tried to memorise as I fell asleep, or find myself scribbling frantically on melting sheets of paper and stuffing under dream representations of said pillow in the sad belief they'll still be there when I wake.

The few entries copied down so far therefore define a new ethereal identity for the notebook, which reminds me of a remark Rachael Ogden made about the entries I'm planning to make in this blog, but have not yet written down. She noted that this was another reliance on memory very like the use I'm trying to put that ramshackle device to in relation to lost items: a virtual notebook of future entries, instead of a lost notebook of actual entries. And now there's a ghost notebook of dream entries.

So far there are five notes, a pentatonic arriving in the following order: one was a memory of a dream from a previous occasion I scribbled down once I realised this was an option; three were the actual texts I was waking up with when I realised I could use the notebook; and the last happened on the morning when I remembered I would have to begin this entry.

They mark another stage I realise now has been holding this blog back a little: the inclusion of actual entries, rather than my thoughts about losing said entries. I do have a reluctance I've noted elsewhere about including online what I persist in thinking of as the real thing rather than mere verisimilitudes thereof -- light verse rather than poetry, previously published reviews rather than straight-to-blog cultural commentary. This relates, I think to the identity scatter I practise in relation to sites in general, and possibly to the manner I assemble poems into books in particular.

Of course this can simply be assigned to the virtues of protecting one's sources (don't poke the muses with a stick being pretty good advice) and most becoming modesty. But that would be rather less than half of the inconvenient facts. The truth is, technique arises in part from habit, and, at earlier points in my career, I may well have used text in a rather passive-aggressive manner to, simultaneously, hide and display, with the result that a weary world picked up on one or two fragments. Although I'm trying to approach greater directness, still, who's got the time to put it all together? Is there even any evidence that I'm putting it all together?

Why I do this is presumably to do with my background: as the self-styled gifted child of a dominating parent from a lower middle class background, I classified myself as exposed by my own 'gifts.' By which I meant such terrifying crises as being at university, or getting published. I was used to the almost self-sufficient world of the only child, which confuses inner monologue with the right to dictate terms, even though I thought of myself as possessing little or no bargaining power.

Dundee, despite the overlooked presence of what now seems a veritable microAthens of peers, was an empty city where the big ghostie people pursued the phantom of that existence I had found so enigmatic and significant as a boy, while my imaginary insect self buzzed around the giant gutters. Oxford, far more so. I was simultaneously too close to and too far away from my subject to be able to put it into any thematic context.

Much of that case persists, especially when it comes to the small matter of handing over the sweeties: I don't like sending poems off to magazines in any constructive, tactical manner, whereas, if someone asks me, I'll usually get round to giving them some. Ditto with reviews, articles, broadcasts -- while others tout, I wait politely to be asked. The amazing thing is that anyone ever asks me to do anything.

Part of the whole endeavour here and elsewhere is just not to recover the notebook, but understand why I made it and what its loss signifies. To move from that corner of the overly-detailed fresco back far enough to get some idea as to what the whole thing might actually be, accepting that it just might not be either representation or abstraction.

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