Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Annual Forgetting

As I wrote out this title it struck me as especially pertinent since today is the 25th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Is it part of our survival mechanism that us humans have crap memories? As if too clear memories might cripple us with fear for doing anything again. It's often the horrific stuff we wipe from our brains.

And to swerve in dramatic fashion from global horror to personal stupidity - this post is actually
about boats.

This weekend we recommissioned our boat and took it for its (and our) annual pilgrimage to Piel Island

What astounds me every year I get back on board after a winter overhaul is how much I look at and wonder what the hell is that for? It's like I've never seen certain ropes and blocks and pulleys before, as if I've not spent weeks tinkering, inching and hauling the wretched things for hours on end - sadly that was over six months ago and all I've done since is paint more antifoul on the hull, service the engine, clean and buff the topsides, measure the anchor warp and fart about with lowgrade general upkeep that makes me so grateful there are others to do stuff too - namely the electronics, which my brain baulks at.

Luckily once it's all back in place - some ropes checked and rechecked that they are in the right place - the actual handling of it seems remarkably easy - especially when we've light winds and an empty enough bay to enable us to sit on a mooring for the night rather than at anchor.

Which comes round to my old bugbear of muscle memory (instinctual memory) as opposed to intellectual memory (requiring a greater need of analysis). I do something often enough and it becomes part of my nature. If I don't do it that much I'm dealing with what therapists call conscious competence...

This analysis slides neatly enough across to writing. Listen to enough music, read enough poetry and the instinctual feel for rhythm becomes part of putting one word next to another next to another. While at Hawthornden I wrote a couple of poem drafts in iambs. I couldn't quite bring myself to go the whole hog into pentameter (more often averaging hexameters but not particularly consistent in that). I've read over the years of several poets who claim not to know where to end a line if they aren't writing in i.p. (which seems like a weak reason to choose that form, but who am I to judge?). Anyway, needless to say it was hard - cranky and simple language ran out along the lines, and yes, it sounded like someone talking. But I generally ask for more than that from poetry. One of the joys of rhythm for me is how it changes, swoops and stops short. It was good exercise I could see that - just as rerigging the boat is good exercise in remembering what all the lines and blocks are for, even if I don't use them, so I can coast out.

Really I just want to go sailing - on water or on irregularly lengthed lines. And really I want to write like Theolonious Monk plays ...

1 comment:

Annie said...

Sounds like a fine thing to have in mind - writing like Theolonious Monk plays.