A Late Walk, Matapouri Track – Concept and Verbalisation

Limited vocabulary poems offer good opportunities for expanding writing skills. When using this technique, concepts involved must be clearly defined within the restrictions of a finite lexicon. In some ways, this may be seen as constraining,which it is, but it also offers freedom to describe in unorthodox and creative ways. It also offers the writer an opportunity to investigate questions such as whether it is possible to hold a concept without the ability to describe it, or how words are constrained by, or can be liberated from, the concepts to which they have become attached.

A Late Walk, Matapouri Track

To enter, I badly needed
Vixen nerves
The courage of midnight,
A shadow path
Into the hollow clearings,
The stink of den deepening
With the starless darkness.

Mortified I imagine hands,
Feel the pelt forest,
From the fur riven stump,
And something touches
My cold face,eyes,
With sacrificial fingers
Tearing delicately.

I imagine a legend,
Blank heirlooms,
Run through dreams,
The thrill of fronting
A long, distressing,
Hot-house death
A cold loneliness.

In sharp recognition,
A fox-faced sun
Springs into the
Redstained half-light,
Brilliantly red,
Then burnt yellow.

With a deeper cry
My child shadow,
With a sharp history
Alive with her instinct
Of self-preservation,
Her birth-yell.

© Martin Porter 2012

“A Late Walk, Matapouri Track” is a poem written about the Tutukaka coast using words taken excusively from three poems, Ted Hughes “The Thought Fox” (1957), Adrienne Rich “Abnegation” (1969) and Adrienne Rich “Fox” (2001). The challenge was made easier by selecting a range of eras and two different poets, but more difficult as there are no foxes in this area of New Zealand.

Although the limited vocabulary might be seen as a serious constraint, it turned into a remarkably liberating experience, revealing opportunities for metaphors that would have remained invisible otherwise. In some ways, this can be seen as a subordinate of the syntax-semantic-vocabulary model of ekphrasis, but where the semantics and syntax are not constrained, only the vocabulary.

An additional, unexpected, benefit was the development of the concepts by the vocabulary. The development from dark fear to bright relief was steered, but not created, by the available lexicon, but the remaining words revealed an unthought-of opportunity of further investigation into self-realisation, progressing the poem from a merely descriptive piece to one with a moe sophisticated meaning.

More detail of the actual process of writing this poem can be found in my blog “Small Stony Notes and Jottings” here and in additional entries in the same month.

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One Response to A Late Walk, Matapouri Track – Concept and Verbalisation

  1. Pingback: A Late Walk, Matapouri Track | Poetry Notes and Jottings

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