Posts Tagged ‘nothing’


there are so many
different kinds of power —
even self-knowledge
is power — I swell with pride
at the sweet fuck all I know

I want so strongly to believe I possess self-knowledge. The self-knowledge I crave consists in grasping how much of myself remains unknown, inaccessible, mysterious — and yet powerfully active at every waking (and sleeping) moment. Knowledge of the unknown self — what an amazing paradox that is. It’s why I’m still enthralled to depth psychology even after forty years of questioning the validity of it. In my dreams last night I was sitting at a computer keyboard trying to deal with a screen that invited me to change my password. Simultaneously I was grappling with the familiar temptation to view pornography, which spilled over into waking life for a period of about twenty minutes upon waking. It’s very curious that I continue to suffer in this way. I can’t think of circumstances in which surfing the internet would not be an exercise of power — even where it’s a compulsion and therefore an expression of powerlessness — power is still the issue. It’s usually helpful for me to remember this at moments when it might seem as though physical pleasure was the primary temptation in pornography.



it’s challenging, to
come down safely from a high —
meet that challenge — learn
doing by doing nothing
— what the Taoist calls wu wei

Eastern wisdom gets a bad press in all sorts of ways. From Jung’s dire warnings against trying to mimic a foreign spiritual tradition, to one’s own suspicion that maybe there’s a kind of inverted racism in believing (as I do tend to believe) that Eastern cultures really might be superior, spiritually, to Western ones. I dreamed I was climbing a ladder or gym wall bars, and when I reached the top, had to climb down the other side. ‘Coming down from a high’ describes more or less the problem I had yesterday coming back into the office after most of the day spent delivering a talk about my experiences as a mental health service user, homeless person, and talking about my life and outlook in general. My poem draws a parallel between ‘coming down’ and wu wei, and that was probably suggested by the classic metaphor for wu wei which is ‘the watercourse way’ — in other words, to practice wu wei is to follow the line of least resistance, exactly the way water follows gravity. The title of this poem is probably much too loaded with a ton of personal, idiosyncratic philosophising. It’s meant to touch on the irony of how any feeling of empowerment, enablement or positivity — as for instance ‘I can understand wu wei‘ or ‘I can put it into practice’ — is already the very worst starting point for understanding wu wei or putting it into practice.


two whole decades of
learning to value having
nothing and no-one……
the legacy of those years?
— a sense of entitlement

I probably ought to read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Buried Giant which is apparently about collective amnesia. I dreamed I was in a queue of homeless people (queuing for food handouts) such as would have been a normal part of everyday life for me through the eighties and nineties. Ahead of me in the queue was the man who, in 2005, gave me my first paid job that I ever held down in my life for longer than three weeks. All warmth of recognition was lacking somehow. Circumstances had changed utterly. He himself was clearly unemployed and homeless, but also, it felt quite possible we were on some other planet, literally, where our shared past was irrelevant. Last thing yesterday I had a brief exchange of texts with my sister on the subject of the effects of time, and how weirdly distanced one can feel from the person one was. Finding that I am a stranger to myself can be unnerving, but it’s also enriching. My poem merely scratches the surface of the strangeness of having a job and an income, and the simultaneous opposite strangeness of realising that I was once homeless.


when I tell him I
love him, his face registers
belief mixed with dread
— like understanding nothing
and everything both at once

The poem describes a scene from real life. But in my dream last night, love just seemed to be an unspoken fact. Quite a selfless, non-demanding, non-sexual kind of love for a young black man named Joe. I met Joe perhaps three or four times, in 1990, when we were both homeless and hanging around Lincoln’s Inn Fields (a kind of unofficial Mecca of homelessness in those days). We had quite a lot in common, being from relatively well-educated backgrounds. When I first met him at the beginning of June, I was reading on a park bench in the sunshine and we struck up conversation around the book, which was Rider Haggard’s Nada the Lily. A week or two later I gave him something to read which I’d written myself. Just a handful of typewritten papers on the subject of the Greek myth of Antigone: I’d devised a set of symbolic meanings for each of Antigone’s siblings in the myth. I never found out his surname, never got my papers back, and by the end of July we’d lost touch. I still remember (to within a day, 28th or 29th June) the date I told him I loved him. It was a moment of exquisite tension. A couple of years later we ran into each other one final time. We were both still homeless and attending the handouts of free food from charity vans coming to Lincoln’s Inn Fields. He was enthusing about the poet, John Wilmot Earl of Rochester.

the end

it’s possible — nay
usual — for a man to
construct his own myth
— but then comes the paring down,
the stripping back to nothing

I dreamed I was dimly aware of someone’s Jewish identity, as making it likely that they might love the (Jewish) pianist Artur Rubinstein. I felt, awake, that there was some theme going on, with Glastonbury in my previous poem, and the name Arthur. And whether men are gods. King Arthur was a kind of god. Artur Rubinstein likewise. I saw Rubinstein on stage at Wembley Town Hall in 1973 when he was 86. This poem turned into a poem about old age, although initially it was more about whether we choose our own mythologies or maybe it’s even possible that they choose us. Jung toyed with the idea that the archetypes possess some kind of consciousness. I would also have liked to get into the poem something about the relationship between a myth and a truth. I think I was saying that the truth of a myth (and therefore of a man) is the nothing at its centre.


what is poetry?
(stupid question, try again)
— when is poetry? —
the raw, brazen shock of truth
created out of nothing

Last night’s dream was of female genital mutilation. A long stretch, you might think, from there to this meditation on ‘what is poetry?’ I can’t really explain how I reached there. Or I could, but it would take too long. I guess I can say though, that the mutilated girl was my first muse in real life. Also the first and truest instance where I dreamed of a girl telepathically and then accepted with my waking mind that the telepathy had been genuine. I really have no idea where I stand on that these days. My whole approach to poetry was born initially out of goddess worship. Poor mutilated goddess. What on earth can be the meaning of such a dream?


this word is nothing —
absolutely nil meaning
or significance,
it rattles when you shake it
— this spirituality

Part of me seems to believe this. It was a thought provoked by a dream last night involving the book ‘The Glass Bead Game’ by Herman Hesse. In the dream I felt a strong sense of affirmation that Hesse was ‘spiritual’.