Archive for December, 2015

male gaze

all women — except
lesbians — are expected
to participate
in the male ego’s crazy
insane wish-fulfilment game

The title came after the poem. And I do not know much — or anything — about what ‘the male gaze’ means to Laura Mulvey who coined the term. In fact I first heard the phrase about 12 months ago and assumed it just meant the way men stare at women. I only found out otherwise by reading Wikipedia just now. The poem came out of a very poorly-remembered dream in which the revelation that someone was a lesbian seemed very important, and otherwise, I was hooking up determinedly with a variety of female strangers (i.e. women who weren’t based on anyone I know, or know of, in my waking life). Awake, I fell to reflecting on how odd it is that there are these two genders, male and female, and that all my life I have accepted the fact of heterosexual desire because I seem to have no choice in the matter. There must be a better vantage point. But I cannot reach it. I am a man in a world consisting of men and women. I have almost no understanding at all of what sexual desire is, or how it works, or what it signifies. In this I believe I am typical of my species. It’s theoretically possible that individuals other than myself may have achieved the understanding I lack. But all the signs are, that this is not the case, and that, if anything, I am unusual for being able to recognise my own ignorance. Most human beings seem unable or unwilling to feel challenged by the opaque mystery which is our own sexual behaviour, preferring instead to take it for granted as a given fact of existence.

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imprint

memories stack up
in the brain — serving what end?
— what purpose? — futile
humanity cannot help
hoping to be remembered

What a strange thing it is, to be simultaneously both the person being remembered and the person doing the remembering! Does identity consist in doing the remembering or in being remembered? I’m led to reflect along these lines both by my mother’s gradual decline into forgetful old age, in waking life, and by a dream last night of filing away bulky sheets of A4 journals into a lever arch file.

please

our journey towards
becoming human reaches
its consummation
in helplessness — power is
nothing but a falling short

I guess, for me, the definition of reality is somehow equivalent to human helplessness, while power is something thrown into the mix in order to throw us off the scent in our quest for ourselves. I’ve no idea how this poem came to be written, except that I dreamed of the word ‘Wednesday’ and decided it must be a dream about companionship (on the strength of association with Robinson Crusoe’s Man Friday). From there, I thought of Liz, my life companion (maybe ‘Woman Wednesday’?) and the way she rounds me out, adds another dimension to my existence, adds to my humanity. I love the idea of life as a journey toward becoming human, and the poem kind of wrote itself as I became locked in a desperate effort to complete that idea without sounding too lame.

problem solving

‘power and gender’ —
if we could even just make
a beginning with
some kind of approach to this
subject — everything would change

I dreamed I was locked in personal and professional dispute and antagonism with the CEO of one of the charities I work for. In real life I admire her very much indeed, find her thoroughly likeable, and have sometimes wished to get to know her more. Our paths seldom cross. I think, in the dream, I was more aware of her being a woman than waking-lfe professionalism allows. Once I’d realised this, the poem flowed from there. It’s a subject I feel passionate about. I have often felt as though I can see contemporary culture through a futuristic lens, particularly where gender politics is concerned. Surely in the future, people will be shocked at our lack of concern for gender, in the same way that these days we feel shocked at past ages’ lack of concern for food hygiene and/or sanitation. The stark simplicity of the given fact that the human race is divided by gender, apparently self-justifying, somehow blinds us to any possibility of devoting sustained creative thought and attention and study and care, to the implications. And we’re blinded and paralysed also because gender is associated with heterosexual desire and procreation, all of which absorbs so much physical and emotional energy, there is nothing left for the intellect. And indeed, the intellect can tend to feel like an unwelcome intruder in a region best left to instinct. With the upshot that our collective culture is forever falling short of proper awareness that gender is even a problem at all, let alone the unresolved problem of the human condition.

self-invention

human memory
— infinitely creative
resource — treasure trove
of scarce possibilities —
each one capable of truth

This was a based on a dream the morning of Boxing Day, which had something to do with a classic pop song from 1970. I would guess probably a reference to The Beatles All You Need Is Love which famously was written to usher in the new decade of the seventies. Casting my mind back to 1970, I began thinking about the process of memory. It really isn’t as simple as recalling facts. If I try and remember the person I used to be, it’s like retelling a story and realising it only ever existed as a story in the first place. Subjectivity can’t be recaptured because it can’t even be fixed and pinned down and captured in the present moment, let alone in retrospect.

unthinkable

petitioning to
be my lover, head tilted
seductively — he
persuades me to abandon
Liz — how is this possible?

Based on a dream I had, Christmas morning, depicting a schoolfriend whom I lost touch with in 1973. He was never my lover in reality. But in the dream I wanted to be with him rather than Liz. I even had a plan for how to let Liz know. I quite like the (for me, unusual) way this poem just describes the dream exactly as it is, and draws no conclusions or interpretations.

timid explorer

there are degrees of
impenetrable darkness
— sometimes it’s OK
to travel no further than
the familiar unknown

I dreamed I was in France on holiday, running out of money and missing my flight home. In the dream I had a vivid enjoyment of being immersed in Parisian culture even despite whatever anxiety about money and practicalities. The poem is crap unfortunately, as it entirely fails to capture that enchantment of Paris, which was the most powerful feature of the dream, and instead interprets the general idea of France (from a UK perspective) as symbolising the familiar unknown. Much too abstract. I also dreamed of an episode of Doctor Who featuring the Pied Piper of Hamlyn. Though in this case, the Pied Piper was being hypnotised by the mice rather than the mice by the Pied Piper. Mice being proverbially timid, this links up with the poem’s title. First thing this morning, before writing the poem, I did some work on improving the text of my own story for a presentation in the new year. I decided to insert a few sentences very close to the beginning which makes it quite clear (I hope) just how committed I am to the notion of ‘the unconscious’. It’s crazy stupid just how difficult I find it to talk about this when I do these presentations. I always feel it is far too intellectual and abstract. But it’s fundamental to how I see the world and it’s really the main reason why I was able to process my own madness successfully and come out the other side. Here’s the text I inserted this morning:

Surely if you’ve never questioned your own sanity — you’ve never lived. I’m someone who believes that the conscious mind is just the tip of an enormous iceberg — the unconscious mind. And madness is just simply whatever you experience when the unconscious mind takes over. Madness is therefore an opportunity for self-knowledge.