For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.
Deconstructing Verse: Here, in this post, I will take one of my own poems and rip it apart, revealing what I was thinking about when I wrote it. I will go line by line, trying to portray what was in my mind. I do not know if this will be of any help to other poets. But, hopefully, at least it will not hinder understanding.
Of course other people might find meanings in it which I had not considered when I put gel pen to paper: some of my writing, I think, is on a subconscious level. I’m sure that Freud would have had a field day with me – if he was still alive, and psychoanalysis hadn’t been totally discredited.
Anyway, here is the poem Vespers. It is from the collection Whispers and Vespers. It has also appeared on a poetry website.
A bell chimes, piercing the gloaming
A summons to break the mental silence.
Garbed like crows after the carrion of your souls,
Their sandals tattoo-slap on clean-washed tiles.
Genuflection at the eventide.
Divining the mysteries of the firmament,
Looking for the spectral solitude,
The solace of deceptive truth.
The sun sets, and is gone, beyond the old stone walls.
Blueness waits to be pierced by stars.
The distant light born before the mortal invention
Of numenous and demiurgic fantasies.
The steps shuffle back, untroubled by doubt.
Tomorrow vespers will come again.
A bell chimes, piercing the gloaming: This is pretty self-evident. There is a bell during the twilight. I like the word gloaming; I think that I first encountered it in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, by Stephen Donaldson. I like to use synonyms where I can, and there aren’t all that many for twilight.
A summons to break the mental silence: It is a call to prayer. The silence is not only physical, but a dumbness of the mind, with thoughts shut off. The bell was for vespers.
Garbed like crows after the carrion of your souls: Crows are dressed in black, like these monks. I am not keen on religion, and I have sometimes felt that the religiose are not happy to let atheists be, but keep trying to traduce them into religion.
Their sandals tattoo-slap on clean-washed tiles: Tattoo here is used for the sound of a military tattoo, rather than suggesting the tattoo which leaves ink in human skin. I wanted something evoking the sound of tattoos one tiles. When everything else has been silence, such sounds will seem louder than they actually are.
Genuflection at the eventide: This, again, is obvious, and means what it says. They are on their knees, in prayer, this evening.
Divining the mysteries of the firmament: These mysteries, for the monks, are only religious ones, of course. They meditate on the ineffable mind of God.
Looking for the spectral solitude: Looking, here, means searching for the spectral solitude listed. Spectral is used here to mean unearthly or supernatural: supernatural as in religious. But the word was also chosen as a synonym of ethereal or ghostly. Solitude is the self-imposed seclusion of the monks. Or it might be the loneliness which they feel.
The solace of deceptive truth: They have their truth, and I have mine. But what one person may think to be truth may only be a self-deception. But some people will happily deceive themselves, if it only puts their mind at rest.
The sun sets, and is gone, beyond the old stone walls: This, again, is fairly obvious. There is no obfuscation here. The old stone walls are those of the monastery.
Blueness waits to be pierced by stars: Here it is the deep blue, becoming black, of the night sky. It is that moment when the sky darkens with the sun having set, but there is still just a little too much light for the stars to be seen.
The distant light born before the mortal invention: The light from the stars comes from an incredible distance away – trillions of miles. The stars are so distant that most people cannot really conceive of how far away they are. A lot of the stars which we can now see, through powerful telescopes, predates human civilisation – mortal invention – having travelled for thousands or millions of years before reaching the Earth. The Virgo cluster of galaxies is, I believe, some fifty million light years away. Fifty million years ago mankind had not evolved. We were in the early Cenozoic era, in the Eocene epoch. It was a time when the ancestor of the horse had just appeared, and a time closer to the time of the dinosaurs than to the modern world. That is how long it has taken for that starlight to reach us.
Of numenous and demiurgic fantasies: I suspect that this line might be the most difficult for some people. A numen is a spiritual power often related to a phenomenon or place. It is a word which has been used, at some times, to refer to proto-deities: powers worshipped by people, but not yet really seen as gods. The Demiurge was a Gnostic power who was the creator of the physical world. In this line, it is suggested that the monks are projecting what they believe, concerning creation by supernatural powers, on the world around them. The world does not need a Creator. That is just a fantasy of our construction.
The steps shuffle back, untroubled by doubt: Prayers are over, and the monks return to their cells. They have the luxury of faith, where they don’t have to question the world around them.
Tomorrow vespers will come again: The cycle continues.
Well, that’s all, folks. Tune in next week for another look into the strange mind of this writer.