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Saturday, 27 December 2008

words should have role models

I was quite sure that couple of weeks before Christmas, or thereabouts, Jim made a remark, commenting on one of my posts concerning words and their meanings, expressing his interest in the subject and his continual surprise that we are ever able to talk to each other. (or something like that.)Unfortunately, though I have trawled my recent posts and their comments, I have done so without success. Just maybe, therefore, it was some other post and not one of mine to which he appended the comment. That he did make the remark, or one very like it, I am in no doubt, for it inspired this poem - and another, to be revealed later, D.V.
I wrote it there and then, in one go, no drafts, and only one small change since - They've for they have. It must be the first time ever I've known for sure that a poem was finished. I wrote "for what they might become" and the beast stopped and dug its heels in. There was no more to be done, nothing else forthcoming. Reading it through now, it sounds very W.S.Graham, but I know it isn't, I'm sure it's mostly Jim - the comment in question and others in the past. This business of words and what they mean intrigues him, I think, as it does me.

The words you hear me speak
are mine. I borrowed them from you,
but in the borrowing they changed,
did not stand still. They are like
homing pigeons now, are proud
to bring you my reply. What will you do
with them now they've returned?
Tell me, will you change them back
or recognise their new integrity?
Or might you change them further yet?
Some were mine from the beginning.
Those I sent like doves in search
of land where they might rest.
Recouperate.What will you do?
How will you recognise the unfamiliar
from that which you knew well?
Might you not send them back
as hawks in search of prey?
If so, how shall I see them then
for what they are? Or should I search
their souls for what they might become?


Shadow said...

i like this. i really, really like this. words, meanings, how they change, how they're interpreted. where do they grow, what do they become...

Dave King said...

There's so much material there, one might never stop digging.

Barry said...

A challenging and thoughtful poem. Makes me wonder if we ever do communicate.

If we can't communicate, of what use is poetry?

Bill Stankus said...

If we conversed in Morris Code it would be boring, wouldn't it?

Sharon Wright said...

Totally enthralling,so much I had never even thoght about, thank you. I love the poem, says just how I feel about communication. People don't think about the words they use, I know I don't.
Thanks for your visit, glad you enjoyed it. It has been good to meet you, given me a totally new perspective.

Lyn said...

Words for what they are? When spoken, the speaker's inflection is in control. Is reading them ourselves, pure?
Aloud, we have theater. Reading, perhaps the way of poetry.
Wonderful thoughts..thank you.
Best for 2009.

The Weaver of Grass said...

!Interesting about words, Dave. Moving up here to farming life in North Yorkshire I find a different vocabulary up here. Only this morning David came in after giving the Christmas left-overs to the hens and told me they were "brossen". What does it mean? Well, roughly it means full-up but only roughly. As he said - it means brossen

Lucas said...

This is a remarkable poem, Dave.
I like the setting where words and birds stand in for each other, and the sense of a mutability to everything we say or think we have said. I fully identify with:

"How will you recognise the unfamiliar/from that which you know well?"

A Happy Christmas Season and Happy 2009!

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Very true, dear Dave, how words do not stay still but change and ar sometimes restless and moving along unexpected routes.
And yes, they are souls to be searched. With a will of their own.

Conda V. Douglas said...

I agree with Lucas and Tommaso. The imagery was quite evocative, Dave. Wonderful idea that since words in a living language are living, they have souls.

And of course, since they're alive, words are always changing, every moment.

Sorlil said...

I like the analogy with birds, especially the doves in search of land - nicely done, Dave.

maekitso said...

Language is a mysterious and beautiful creature. Perfectly fitting that it should be a winged creature. Lovely.

Jim Murdoch said...

Perhaps, as you say, because the words were mine originally this poem makes perfect sense to me. But not all the words were mine. Some are like ... harmonics is as good a word as anything else. Very good, Dave.

Dave King said...

Welcome and thanks for stopping to comment. Your question probably deserves a post or two all to itself. We communicate well enough, I suppose, in those areas for which the words were originally intended: commerce, the daily round, practical affairs, factual information, etc. When we get to matters of the spirit, metaphysics and so forth, though, the strain begins to tell. I guess that's where poetry begins and to some extent rides to the rescue.

Yup, I guess it would at that!

Welcome and thanks for the compliments. I believe it is true that we don't give enough thought to what we ask of words in some contexts.

I have a friend who offered to read aletter tosomeone who had left her glasses at home. She turned the offer down, very politely, saying: It wouldn't be any good. You wouldn't say it the way I would read it. I thought that encapsulated the problem - if problem is the best word for it.

Weaver of Grass
Of course it means brossen. Fancy you not knowing that!

Thanks for that - and a very happy 2009 to you and yours.

Your last phrase is the important one, I think. Thanks.

Yes, you give a whole new meaning to the phrase living language!

Many thanks. Much appreciate the feedback.

Much thanks for that.

Harmonics is a brilliant suggestion. Yup, that fits in beautifully. Thanks.

Comedy Goddess said...

How nice to find your site! I enjoyed your poem and look forward to more.
Thanks for following my blog!

Roxana said...

I agree with barry, we communicate only by forgetting (or forcing ourselves to forget) all these questions, by giving up the search for 'their souls', for what words 'might become'. wonderful poem, dave.
and happy new year :-)

Dave King said...

Commedy Goddess
Welcome and thanks for the kind remarks

Thanks for that - and the best of 2009 to you and yours.

Linda S. Socha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda S. Socha said...


Powerful and one of those multi leveled truths. Well done. You are such an interesting mixture of direct and abstract communication in your writing

Totalfeckineejit said...

Hello Dave, I guess at best language is a shared code, a limited/unlimited palette, but it's amazing the ways that code can be morphed,, twisted ,abstracted ,de-constructed ,painted with beauty.

Poetikat said...

I feel a bit of a sparrow - pecking at the crumbs.


Totalfeckineejit said...

Or perhaps I should have said an approximation of a code- how often do we claim 'words fail me' or resort to 'over the moon' off-the-shelf cliches, a ready made meal instead of experimemtal cooking, how often are emails read completely differently to the writing of them , words lost (almost in translation) without the clues of facial expression or tone or the minute interactions and quickfire questioning of the sender.We all have the same football but not everybody can bicycle-kick it into the back of the net.Nice poem by the way and aren't the best ones sometimes the least work? Often by pulling and pushing and cutting and pruning and polishing we lose the original shape of abstraction altogether

Susan Sonnen said...

This poem just got better and better as it went along! (speaking of language...surely there must be a better way to say "got better", but it's late and I'm lazy...) I especially like these lines: Tell me, will you change them back/
or recognise their new integrity?
For me, those two lines imply that neither is right or wrong, but that what is simply is. Building beauty on beauty and such. As I said, I am tired, so forgive me if I make no sense! :)

Carl said...

I have often felt the same way about viewing paintings. The artist has one (or many or no) intent when he places brush to canvas... Yet the viewer ultimately decides for himself what the paintings mean. I remember thinking as a child that there was no way to know that what I saw as green everyone else saw as green. I mean by this we might all see the grass as a completely different color, but by our mutual experience of seeing the grass we agree that that is what we call green. I often wonder at how any of us understand each other at all. Thanks for a great and evocative poem.

Dave King said...

Thanks Linda. It's the words, you see; they're the multi levelled ones!!

Yes, absolutely, and its in those boundaries between the shared and unshared that the interest lies.

I'm very fond of sparrows. I was brought up to think them wonderful.

I guess the cliche is a sort of agreed code for the code. Totally agree, though, about the best poems. Sometimes perspiration works, but it rarely beats inspiration. It's just no good waiting for the latter - that way it never strikes.

Welcome and thanks for that. I am very happy to settle for got better.
Yes, Tell me, will you change them back/
or recognise their new integrity?
could be taken to imply neither right nor wrong, though I hadn't seen it in that light. Interesting - not bad for tired. Thanks again.

Yes, the analogy with colour is exactly right, I think. I, too, remeber distinctly the time when that thought first struck me - the one about seeing differently without ever being able to know whether we saw differently or not. Similarly, if you take a colour out of its context and put it in a differently coloured environment, it appears to change. Ditto words, I think.

watermaid said...

‘Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die…….
…………………. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. ……..
(T.S.Eliot: ‘Burnt Norton’)

Your words here say so much about themselves and about us as humans and the material world in which we live. They do indeed stay in place.

‘………………Or should I search
their souls for what they might become?’

Your poem speaks to me in the context of my current reading about ‘soul’ and ‘language’ in McCabe’s book which I mentioned in a previous comment. Language is what makes us unique and sets us above the animals. It is the source of our creativity and its possibilities are endless. It’s amazing and wonderful that we can communicate with one another at all. The words may have started out as someone else’s but you have made them your own. The dove and the hawk add yet another dimension.

I have written very few poems where the first draft has been the finished poem and have many where I still feel I haven’t quite got there. Great poem, Dave.

Linda Sue said...

Dave- you continue to GIVE and GIVE - your poems are the ones that require me to sit and stare at a blank wall for hours! I adore your brain, i do! Your poetry is my drug of choice and I am really high on this one- thank you!

Poetikat said...

Dave, I love all birds - sparrows are well-treated on my patch.


SweetTalkingGuy said...

Hi Dave, Love the way the words evolve here, liked the line about the doves being sent out.

Dave King said...

Interesting comment! Nothing with which to disagree, but a lot to think about. I think it is only the second time that afirst draft has been my final one. Certainly doesn't happen often!

Thanks again for the kind compliments. Much appreciated.

Great to hear.

Thanks for the comment. All such feedback is really useful.

Derrick said...

Hello again Dave,

Yet another late read I'm afraid!

Your other contributors make incisive comments. I just know how much I enjoyed your poem, the thoughts and images it conjured in my mind.

Thank you.

Dave King said...

Inveterately tardy myself, early or late, all comments are very welcome. Thanks for yours.

Dominic Rivron said...

Your poem reminded me of a famous case - Hugh MacDiarmid's poem, Perfect, in which he accidentally borrowed/reused words from a novel.

mansuetude said...

"Or should I search
their souls for what they might become"

how gift of you!
I am always stuck in life, by this strange dance words mangle and display and open and close...

when they go out and come back, it is "WE" who inside ourselves choose, to let them stand like monuments or to "search their souls" as extensions of our light, to open them further, to honor the relationship they weave between us and other. Or Soul... I think.

Thank you for this, very timely and in need.

ed said...


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