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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

With Eyes Tight Shut : 2

If you have not read part 1 to this post, With Eyes Tight Shut : 1 you might like to do so in order to get the back story, as they call it these days.

Battalions of ant-like warriors,
seen from some high vantage point,

act out the world of men and things
in some huge kreigspeil on the beach.

And then, or so it seems, the tides push in
and every piece and pawn upon the board
becomes but my reflection in the sea -
ten thousand images and congeners of me.

Because of some interstice in the land
(our language is inadequate)
I cannot reach these images or see
what makes each always him and never me.

Repeatedly the pieces move;
I understand their strategy
and analyse their moves,
but cannot see
who moves them with such mastery.

From where I stand
the waves distort the images they carry
and pawns seem bent the way the tides are flowing.

I watch the fluctuating mirages
that ever come back different from the sea.

Is this illusionary flux what I call thought?
Is thought coerced in me?
The sea heaves up its greasy back;
the pieces and the pawns dissolve and break,
are shattered by the wave's caress.

And where the symbols of the indivisible divide,
do we reach consciousness?

Above is the first poem still extant to have come from my eyes closed experiments. It is certainly the longest, and thereby hangs a tale of sorts. Back then - and then would be four or five decades back, something like that - closing my eyes would work amazingly well, the trouble was I didn't realize how well until it no longer did. (You don't appreciate what you've got until you lose it may be a cliche, but it has a knack of proving itself to be only too true.) Back then, shapes, patterns, colours would evolve, not so much before my eyes as behind them. At times it was like having my own inbuilt video machine playing to me. As you will have guessed from my remark above, it didn't last. The shows got shorter and shorter until they were mostly static affairs, single images that were intense to begin with and then slowly faded. The early animated ones were ideal for poetry writing, of course, for they tended to be linear, to have a development, although that would not be a narrative unless I read one into it - quite easily done in some cases. More recently they have been less productive of poetry and more suitable for art work. Strange then, that this did not occur to me until I saw the Victor Pasmore exhibition. The images are fewer and further between now - on a par with other aspects of the ageing process, I suppose - and have achieved something of a scarcity value since an operation to remove a cataract. This I find very strange. It has been explained to me that where the brain expects to find a signal in a nerve ending and fails to do so (e.g. because an aural nerve has been damaged or because the eyes are closed), it will find something in the system to compensate and the individual concerned will experience tinnitus or some sort of image. Cataracts and their removal and the insertion of implants would seem on that basis to have nothing to do with it. But there it is. That which I once had in spades is now in short supply - or I need more patience, need the eyes closed over a much longer period of time.

Perhaps I should point out that there is a difference in the way I use the images. In the case of those that suggest verse I use them exactly in that way: as kicking off points from which to develop the poem. For inspiration, if you like. The poem above was constructed from what was basically one image that morphed slightly two or three times. I have put in italics the phrases representing the various image states. Where, on the other hand, I try to reproduce the image visually, again I do exactly that: reproduce it as faithfully as I can. Most recently I have tried to do this digitally, with camera and scanner, using objects as starting images and manipulating them towards the desired result. The two shown below are such. They began life as glass ashtrays, but they represent (reasonably well, I think) images from my cataract operation. I have a real phobia about eyes and anybody/thing touching them. So the op' was quite a difficult affair for me - and could have been for the surgical team! Especially so as I was told I must try not to move the eyeball. Reasonable enough, but... I decided to try to focus on an imaginary point in space. Imaginary because the lens of one eye was being removed and the other eye was covered by a green cloth. Furthermore, the eye being attacked was also being continually irrigated. Accordingly, I imagined myself focussing on a point in what was a stygian darkness - and was rewarded by the alternation of the two images shown below. Susan, commenting on my previous post, mentioned the possibility of using the closed eye technique to face fears of darkness or the unknown. In this particular instance it was forced on me, but I would have to say that it worked a charm.

But back to verse. Also below I give some examples of shorter verses that have come from images seen with the eyes tight shut.

The darkness shivers,
is a wet dog,
shakes its fur from which
come stars, white
constellations of the mind.

Green railway lines lie left to right
in lateral perspective, and a smudge
pours smoke into the sky.

The light is soft and soothing,
effervescent, drains
into a white chrysanthemum
from which a river flows and into which
white petals fall.


Natalie said...

Wow. Clever, Dave. This is such an interesting topic. Good on you for bringing it to light.x

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Once again......beautiful!

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Unknown said...

Hi Dave,

I'm still jealous! That you can create such art, whether in words or images from these visions is amazing, I think. Your glass ashtrays are great! It is an art in itself that you can manipulate a photographic image to resemble your vision!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Very interesting post Dave. I think our creative output probably varies according to one's mood. I shall certainly try the eye shutting technique. I find it interesting that sometimes one feels very creative and at other times not at all. A friend says it depends which side of the brain is engaged at the time. I don't know what it is but I certainly have days when I feel totally unable to do anything at all creative - and other days - god bless them - I feel like writing all day.
Ilike that last poem very much indeed.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it seems to depend on which side of the brain is working at the time. I also found that being really creative involved a change of the tool. I used to buy some expensive fountain pens to write some of my books with and that spurred me on to make money to pay for the pen.

Abraham Lincoln
Brookville Daily Photo

Jeanne Estridge said...

This evoked lots of thoughts for me:

1) "Don't it always seem to go/that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?" Joni Mitchell
2) I had Lasik surgery are few years ago, so I empathize with your feelings while under the laser. It's truly terrifying to have people working on your eyeballs.
3) According to research I've read, dreams occur as random images in the right brain, and achieve narrative form in the left when we try to retell them. I like to ruminate about that sometimes, and now I'll have to mesh in what your experiences say about that. Is it that you're experiencing fewer images that they seem static, or are you having problems with cognitive processing of the images? Hmmm.

Jinksy said...

The last poem has exactly captured 'eyes closed' images in a most beautiful and creative way.

Caroline Gill said...

Thank you for your kind comments ... and I have very much enjoyed visiting your blog, too. I particularly liked your feature on nature poetry. How exciting it is when a poem has astute observation at its core but 'takes off' somewhere quite different! My computer (low power) is not allowing me to 'follow you' at present, but I shall return ...

Tess Kincaid said...

Totally fascinating! I can certainly relate to your eye sensitivity. I can hardly stand that "puff of air" glaucoma test.

Okay, I am going to give the eyes shut technique a try, as long as I can stay awake like that!

Meri said...

This post duo is fascinating, simply because I had never thought of my closed eye visions as an impetus to poetry. To art, yes, because of the visual but ephemeral nature of what goes on the screen of closed eyes. But not to writing. The impetus to write for me comes in those little cartoon bubbles of thought that just pop into the air above my head and float there until I read them. So I will have to think upon this and pay more attention to the images. How many thousands of them might have gone sadly to waste?

Unknown said...

You have inspired me to (finally!) write a post after reading this, and for this I truly thank you David because I have been stuck with this idle engine for what felt like forever -- wanting to write but with nothing to say. Your imagery is always so strong but I must say, anything having to do with eyes really freaks me out so I was shivering during your reference to the irrigation.



Michelle said...

I am terrified of things touching my eyes.

I haven't tried the technique yet as when I close my eyes right now, I fall asleep:(

But I will. I will....

Lovely poetry Dave.

Karen said...

Your postings are always so very interesting! The poetry is lovely, the eyeball talk makes me blink, and the whole thing makes me want to try to see with my eyes wide shut.

Cloudia said...

This is interesting and beautiful.
I found that REIKI brought back the images behind my closed eyes.

EfigĂȘnia Coutinho ( Mallemont ) said...

Desire to leave express my admiration to the beautiful work of this Blog, yours truly, EfigĂȘnia Coutinho (Mallemont)

Fantastic Forrest said...

Great poetry, as usual. I know what you mean about a reluctance to have eye surgery. Every once in a while, I think about lasik to correct my vision, but I'm too squeamish. Wonder if that would have a similar effect on eyes shut visions?

Dave King said...

Glad you liiked it. Thanks Natalie.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff.
Much appreciated.

Alas, Derrick, as I indicated, it's a dying art! Thanks though.

Weaver of Grass
Interesting remark, that by your friend, about which side of the brain - though that should not determine whether we feel creative or not, only whether we create using words or visual means. Maybe it was that, and not the type of vision, that pushed me one way or the other.

I write much more creatively with a fountain pen than with a ball point. I am sure it is something to dp with the resistance and the rhythm that makes possible.

Several interesting points there. One correction: my surgeon used ultra-sound, not laser. Somehow that seemed a touch less terrifying - irrational, but then the phobia is irrational to begin with.
Appreciate the Joni Mitchell quote.
Yes, that is pretty much what I was taught about right and left sides.
It's not so much the processing of the images that has dried up, as having them in the first place.

Stephen Dell'Aria said...

Your adventures behind the eyelids are really fascinating, Dave. I particularly like the second poem. The imagery is vivid. Your words give clarity to this experience.

Dave King said...

Thank you. Glad you liked it.

Thank you for those kind words. They are much appreciated.

Ah, but if you nod off, you might find you have influenced the dream! (I did experiment with that (influencing one's dreams) at one time, but no luck there, I'm afraid!

Strange, almost the same experience as myself, but the other way around. Good luck with your efforts in the literary sphere.

Thanks for that. The experience was not as bad as I might have made it sound - helped, I suppose, by the fact that the surgeon was a delicious oriental lady and a nurse was detailed to hold my hand - they said it was an emergency signalling system, I was to squeeze it if I was about to sneeze, cough or do anything unexpected... whatever could they have meant?

Very kind. Thanks.

As per my reply to Willow. Good luck and thanks.

It's worth a try, certainly.

Well done you, then!

Welcome to my blog and thanks for that extremely kind comment.

Fantastic Forrest
Not sure, don't see why it should - but then I'm not convinced it was the surgery in my case.

Dave King said...

Thanks for that comment. I was especially struck by your use of the word "adventure". It was an adventure, especially at first, but I don't think I ever thought of it that way.

Frances said...

Power to Efigenia eh Dave? Great post and well deserved praise.

Kaylia Metcalfe said...

wow, I am so glad I found your blog....

I have a feeling I am going to be spending a lot of time here.

Sarah Laurence said...

What a fun exercise with such interesting results. The images work well with the verse too.

ArtistUnplugged said...

Interesting, I like the imagaes, remind me of the iris of an eye, I know it was not part of the eye, just a visual, but that is what it reminds me of. I like to close my eyes and watch the images sometimes when I am resting, the colors go in and out, like a kaleidascope would. I also enjoy the pictures that you stare at for a few seconds then close your eyes to reveal a new image in new colors. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

A fabulous duo of posts, Dave. It's amazing that something so common to experience can slip under the radar of recognition. I'll give the 'eyes tight shut' some closer thought and see what happens. Thanks.

Dave King said...

Indeed! And thanks for that comment.

Welcome to the blog. I, too, am glad you found it. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

Glad you enjoyed it. Appreciate the feedback.

Artist Unplugged
Thanks for that. I agree they remind one of the iris of an eye. The thought occured to me at the time that it was as though I was seeing the very thing that was missing just then! Yes, I, too, have often been fascinated by the image - usually in complementary ccolours - that occurs when you first close the eyes.

Thanks for that. Keep us posted re the results.

soulbrush said...

both [ieces fantastic dave, and thanks for your visits too.

Maggie May said...

The darkness shivers,
is a wet dog,
shakes its fur from which
come stars, white
constellations of the mind.
i love this stanza. it flows so beautifully and the images are lovely.

Roxana said...

amazing stuff for poieticians as they say in french: people specializing in the study of the creative process (like me) :-)

Lucy said...

Fascinating, and certainly makes me want to give it a go. It's true we often don't notice what's in front of our eyes!

It seems to me that there might be two distinct (possibly) phenomena: the physiological workings of the eyes and the imaginative projecting of images by the mind, though clearly eyes and brain are so close that it's not necessarily so distinct...

Do you begin to compose the poems while doing the eyes shut thing? Or after, or do you take breaks to make notes then compose?

I remember hearing as a kid about how the Hare Krishna people (I think) would press their thumbs on their closed eyelids to see then Inner Light. I tried it and was intrigued by the radiating green dots. On first opening my eyes waking up, I get that white chrysanthemum thing, but which also looks to me like the shape of my iris and pupil in negative.

I'm going to have to give this more attention; it's certainly a very cheap and handy form of diversion/inspiration!

Your poems are a wonderful result...