Posts Tagged ‘inadequacy’


Moses ascends Mount
Sinai and all around him
the desert whispers
futility — oh Moses,
if only you had listened!

The poem took futility as its starting point. Same old, same old: futility, defeat, inadequacy. These are the emotions I feel, faced with the task of extracting meaning from a dream into a poem. The poem began to germinate with the idea that the futility is something positive. It’s an opportunity for seeing beyond the obvious. In my dream, I saw a photo of a rock-strewn path up a mountain, which I knew to be Mount Sinai. I recognised it from when I climbed Mount Sinai in 1984. Awake, I thought of Moses, and also of Heraclitus who pointed out that the way up a mountain is the same as the way down (thus demonstrating the unity of opposites). Comparing Moses and Heraclitus, it struck me that Moses could really have learned something from Heraclitus. I suppose my poem ends up finally as being all about patriarchy and purposefulness. The undermining of purpose by futility is a good thing, if it makes us stop and discover a more nuanced outlook. There’s nothing very nuanced about the Ten Commandments.



it would be better
left completely alone — why
attempt any kind
of illumination, when
the darkness is so easy?

Back to the theme of my own total inadequacy. I am kicking against the self-imposed duty of examining my dreams each morning and extracting a poem from them. I had two dreams. In one I was in bed with my sister; in the other I had designs on another man’s wife. I don’t know how to make incest and adultery palatable or even meaningful.

what life means

to be daggers-drawn —
locked face-to-face with my own
— an infinite series of
partially met challenges

I guess if that’s what life means to me, then that’s what life means to me. It’s certainly the feeling I get time after time, once I’ve written out my notes on the night’s dreams, and, somewhat reluctantly, start turning my mind to what they ‘mean’. I had quite a lot of notes this morning — too many dreams to mention here — but the main one involved a horse who wanted to be galloped. Quite early on during the night, I woke with a verbatim sentence in my mind which I’ve now forgotten. It was something like advice how to transcend the feeling of being two halves (‘this thing and another thing’). I would guess this must connect with the website of Richard Sylvester I was browsing last night. There is also a connection with phenomenology, which seeks to look beyond ‘mind and body’ dualism. I’ve been vaguely interested in phenomenology for nearly 20 years, but Vedanta is relatively new to me. Quite clearly, my poem reflects these interests. The image of being locked face to face with my own inadequacy presupposes a ‘me’ and another ‘me’. The horse-riding image too, is probably a memory of being taught as a teenager that learning to meditate was like learning to ride a horse. The mind has to be ‘gentled’.


a strange feeling of
hopelessness overwhelms me
this morning, as though
my own inadequacy
were some desperate secret

Very much wishing again that I could break free and just write poetry from the heart, instead of remaining constrained by the forms of tanka and haiku. And my poem too, is an expression of the wish to break free (from my own pretence of bravado). I did at least break free, in the poem, from my dream images, concentrating instead on how it felt in the moment. Pleasingly, I realise now that ‘bravado’ might well describe some important aspects of my maternal grandfather’s character, whom I dreamed of last night. He was conducting Brahms’ 2nd Symphony. In real life he was a music teacher and did some amateur conducting. He must have felt quite intimidated by my father’s being a professional conductor. My father’s professionalism nearly inspired a whole different poem this morning. It’s an admirable thing (as any professionalism is). But if I’m to understand my own feelings concerning it, my maternal grandfather is a crucial part of the equation. The two men are almost like caricatures of weakness and strength respectively, at some level of my imagination, if I look back with my child’s eyes. I wish I could go back and change that. Improve the relationship between those two aspects of myself, by improving the relationship between the two men in the real world.

who am I?

running away from
the problem of who I am
— if anyone asks
tell them I found fulfilment
running away from myself

Dream: Alan Carr (for those not in the UK, he’s a TV entertainer with an outrageously camp persona) drives me to a secluded spot, turns and asks me Are you gay? I reply that everyone is. In waking life, I believe in fact there is no such thing as homosexual identity, there is only homosexual behaviour, which everyone is capable of. I nearly called the poem wimp, since it goes far beyond homosexuality. It’s more about adequacy and inadequacy. The poem expresses resignation to a feeling of cosmic inadequacy.