JANUARY - CHARLES SIMIC
The extraordinary poet Charles Simic says something about spareness that I have been learning over a period of time. At this point in my creative bouts, I see the value of this careful crafting of briefness that he talks about, and the return to the archive of memory, nostalgia and retrospect, in more ways than one:
Of all the things ever said about poetry, the axiom that less is more has made the biggest and the most lasting impression on me. I have written many short poems in my life, except ‘written’ is not the right word to describe how they came into existence. Since it’s not possible to sit down and write an eight-line poem that’ll be vast for its size, these poems are assembled over a long period of time from words and images floating in my head. A brief poem intended to capture the imagination of the reader requires endless tinkering to get all its parts right.
The poem I share with you today has the characteristics of this ‘endless tinkering’ and the harnessing of whole universes of meaning, experience and hegemony, in a precise, high resolution image. Poems of this kind, you will find, have at their centre a kind of conflict. Actually, more than conflict, they dwell in limbos and fissures - there is the distinct sense of a hiatus, an “inside” and an “outside”, a curbing of intuition, a yearning for freedom. The image in Simic’s January is so stark that it leaves me frozen for a moment, vulnerable, and ripe for the sharp knife of understanding. The words crystallise at the centre of so many cutting currents, that it ceases to be a tableau, foregoing its literary presence, to be a tile in the palatial carcass of the history of control in human civilisation.