I’m always on the prowl for ambient sounds apt for concentration, quest which led me to some of the most endeared songs of my library. Recently, I came across Ensō, by Fort Nowhere, followed by my procurement of what Ensō meant, the discovery of that Japanese spiritual practice, along with Japanese aesthetics, which I explored through various sources until I came upon this article, which features a series of Japanese aesthetic principles along with an Ensō ( which completed a full circle in my quest, interestingly). Inspired by the various principles presented in the article, I attempted to create seven compositions related to how those principles interact (although at times a bit loosely) with my own ontological views. I paired each principle with a material or substance, to have both a thematic and a cosmetic focus for each poem. They are simple, very simple poems, some plangent, some more delicate, all of them written in the same style but independent of one-another, which means you may read only the one you feel most drawn to, or read all in the hope that you might like at least one of them. They are ordered as follows:
Needless to say, they are more modernistic than oriental in tonality and form, but my primary attempt was to coalesce the two in my own style. I don’t feel that I was fully successful, but I decided to heed to my most oriental principle: just to let them be. I produced them in two hours, in Portuguese, and did not edit them. I still hope you managed to extract something valuable or, at least, be entertained. Thank you much for reading, João-Maria.
In 1976 — a year hardened by a big exodus within European confines, Alina, then eighteen years of age, left Tallin, Estonia, for a more promising life in England. Shipping in embrace with her father, she left only her mother, who was left in solitude. Arvo Pärt, by then a long-time friend of the family, syphoned from his years of composing and wove one of the most influential and sumptuous works of musical minimalism — Für Alina, the emblem of his tintinnabuli stylistic approach.
Music, unlike any other basilar-Art, envelops and takes command of a singular sense perception, and opposite to what modernistic music-videos would have you believe, Music itself pylons above little else than sound. Any aesthetic extension is dismissible to the gestalt of a piece. If a composition cannot support itself, a music-video has no worth, and shan’t amend the issue, since it is not constituent to the Art at-hand. There is, however, a very important semblance of aesthetic (by medium of thematic) in Music, laid at the very core of what makes Music, well, Music: giving order to noise and shape to silence — the simplest, most sincere description of the Art.
Pärt, however, had many trepidations with that unique conception of his craft, and his dark, strikeful soul, compounded with the frigidity and abound lifelessness of the Estonian landscapes, opened those mires of sound that would pend and dip into those chilling waters of silence. He discovered that, perhaps, the soul of a weeping mother, missing and fearing dearly for her child, might connect more with the softness of absent sound than with the cadence and encore of a sole violin.
At roughly seventeen, I first heard this composition being played at a concerto in Lisbon’s suburbs, held in a poorly-lit office room with what felt like six sombering, silent listeners. Maybe such setting allowed me to feel the profound isolation hand-crafted by Arvo, the lingering restlessness of his notes, coalesced with sumps of a silence so-dense, so terribly overwhelming, it becomes a luscious shade that dances around you, and beats at tandem to a shrivelled heart. Alina was gone. Alina left, and with her, she took only her mother’s light, her mother’s life. And how many have done so, since, like Alina has? How many left? Leaving in their wake, the sounds of marching feet, slammed doors, doleful grunts and grievous wounds, followed by a prompt of marginal silence? Silence so long, so withering, it seems to hug you with heat?
Für Alina soothes (and suits) best those who feel abandoned at the margins of a big, haunting desolation, much like Arvo did, much akin to Alina’s mother; but also, the composition itself does not lean only on a negative effect — there is, simultaneously, moments were it lends itself to the release of youth, to the prospect of a more-complete life, a stroll of innocence within the avenues of a reality where such innocence is rewarded, and not condemned nor abused. But all the while, silence is still there, thus, pain is too; no truthfully sincere vision of a positive future may exist in a bubble of suspension, there must be descent, that bubble too must pend and dip into the chilling waters of silence; there is no courage in leaving without fear for what is left behind. Arvo, then, dares not to shy away from his still-silent soul, one that still hurts much, even in the moments when it hurts less. Arvo then upheld the truth of a minimalist — that sadness and serenity cannot be fully translated by adagios and staccatos, that release and catharsis cannot be fully translated by crescendos and da capos, but that Music itself exists only because Silence does, too. This idea, this seed that Silence itself can be a carrier of Art, a medium of emotion far beyond our conventional perception of music, was thought of way before Pärt existed, but he alone mastered the weaving of silence beyond any of his predecessors, acing it with a grace and mastery equal only to the silent landscapes of his Estonian youth.
I often ponder on this, for Pärt heavily influences my poetry, perhaps more than many poets I admire, and without ever stringing a singular verse; I connect more with his silence, than to the pristine sound of a Shakespearian sonnet; Because I am made of more silence than I am of memories of rosie lips and venetian balconies. Because life is as much a song, as it is a pause. A long, beautiful song, and a longer, sombering pause.
I will leave you with a fellow Portuguese artist, Joana Gama, playing Für Alina with incredible technique and properness:
“noise, peace”took a lot of my poetic energy to write, and I’m still slightly on cooldown. These times also great to compose, because they allow me to produce humble and simpler compositions that are just as necessary as others of higher complexity.
Heavily inspired by Chinese music and partiture, this specific composition is only special in the fact that it isn’t special. I quite like that.
Disclaimer: “The Moon Sets Over a Desolate Castle” is a traditional chinese melody.
Author’s Note: the division of the composition is only aesthetically deliberate, the two parts do not have autonomy in either order or independence.
Y’all, I’ve been reading too much American poetry, so I’m going through this mixed phase of modernism and romanticism, I hope something good comes out of this because its certainly weird for me to write like this.
Disclaimer: bulletless doesn’t seem to be a real word, but I don’t get why, so I’m gonna use it anyway.
Disclaimer 2: I’ve since revised the second part of the poem, so if you’re reading for a second time, you may find it different than the original. If you seek the original, you can find it here.
The image above, if carefully examined, displays three differently animated levels distinguishable by their relation to velocity and, by consequence, Time. This animation device has been used to display certain feelings in a much clearer way: her face is animated carefully and slowly, every frame is fluid, to inspire serenity and placidness. Her hair is animated frantically, with frames leaping between animation with little fluidity, alluding to a chaotic exterior and high intensity movement. The background, although blurred, also happens at a time different from the other two layers, presenting a both static and simultaneously – moving – backdrop. This allows for a certain displacement through the fluidity of our space, allowing Art to perforate the emotional human sensors without replicating at all what those sensors are used to, by thematic association. Our world feels much like that of the animation, it constantly moves, yet we cannot fully absorb all it’s evolutions and changes, in turn, accounting for a hollow movement that we can only relay through “mental bookmarks”, like special occurrences, producing a more stop-still version of reality (similar to the one animated above), instead of flowing realistic approach to time.
In fact, Art has a plethora of examples using different composite time frames to convey a sense of “overlook” or “outlander” sentiment among its viewers, mainly present in sensorial arts like music or painting.
To literature – an Art intimately connected with the frugality of time and how it can be controlled within its frames – this device most likely has been used, but never deeply explored. In this first edition of poetry lab, I will attempt to harness my marginal composing experience to translate those planes of time dissonance into the realm of poetry. As I’ve done a good amount of experimental poems in my short time here, I’ve never taken the time to explain the processes or missions behind those experiments, and now I’m headstrong on taking you on my composing journey:
SECOND, A THOUGHT.
First, we need to figure out how to distend time properly within a written line of text. Poetry, by its very sonorific nature, makes this superficially easy by use of verse length and syllabic control:
I dreamt of latent love, yet within, darkness still reigns unkind,(11 words, 15 syllables)
Air to flame, implored by sinuous shadows,(7 words, 11 syllables)
Extinguish their fear to die.(5 words, 7 syllables)
Following an ordered decrescent sound, each verse has the same amount of syllables as the words of the verse that precedes them (11, 15), (7, 11), (5, 7). This, however, inspires a singular timeline instead of multiples ones, giving a sense that time is accelerating and thus, “running out”. But why not the contrary? Why does it not recall time just slowing down? This is annulled by the temporal references in all verses, displayed in a gradient from past (dreamt, implored), to present (extinguish, to die).
Like mentioned above, this does not relay multiple times but instead, just one flowing in-unit but changing exponentially. We can, however, salvage this later when we compose full stanzas by separating their descriptive nature through the usage of this method. So, instead of separating verses according to time, we will separate stanzas according to what line they represent by giving them symbols:
Stanza 1 – first tempo (11, 15) (plane of interior occurrence, introspection, visual devices must appear here)
Stanza 2 – second tempo (7, 11) (plane of exterior sensorial captures, noise, static, distortion and interruption, sound devices must appear here)
Stanza 3 – third tempo (5, 7) (plane of universal awareness, no sensorial, visual or sound devices can appear here, detached information must not contain emotional draws)
This is merely scratching the surface of what this method can produce, as a shift in the structure mid-composition can relay powerful messages of emotional re-focus, or give a sense of expanding/shortening of knowledge at any given point. The main objective here, however, is that the poem is able to speak to itself and the conversation won’t sound too unphased, so we will stick to the good ol’ repetition, by creating one more set of stanzas with same structure, but different in essence.
As the composition is mainly experimental, I will utilise common meanings I’m familiar with for the sake of my mental sanity (and short amount of time per day I have to compose), those of love and solitude in a frugal world where such things are generally devalued:
THIRD, A COMPOSITION.
As demonstrated above, I initially compose the first part of the composition within a relatively ordered and rhymed structure, using the lines written above as a visual guide to building the remaining verses. Although this version partially gets the job done, it’s still rather obscure that frames shift between stanzas, and I attempt a more lax yet word-based second part in an attempt to compensate the rigid/restrictive shape of the first version:
I’ve since let a day pass before writing that second part, as to refresh my information absorption and be less likely influenced by the same recurrent pieces of reception still being digested within (a great advice I’ve accidentally left out of my poetic tips). This second version, although not apparently very different from the first in terms of how it was constructed, manages to convey both the message, the subject and the quest of time much better than the previous, not by means of its structure, but by how words are ordered coupled with how they intertwine, generating a sense of shift from when they fuse and when they don’t (thus, sound shifts).
I must now refine and finish the composition on my own, and publish it similarly to all other poems on the website, but that boring part I intend on doing by myself.
I’m not a professional or academic in this subject, therefore, all conclusions are from my viewpoint and might conflict with certain academic standings out there (although from my research, I’ve found none), but none of this is fact or close to it, I’m just trying to have some fun with words and I hope you’re entertained as well!
PS: Tell me what you think of posts similar to these, I’m planning a bunch more since I have about 20 pages of notes about different composing methods I would like to attempt!
Estou feliz de-novo, como tal, a minha poesia está a recuperar. Peço desculpa pela supressão de conectores, estou a tentar usar sonoridades mais brasileiras, sendo que são também mais compactas. Como gosto tanto das duas variantes de Português, pensei, porque escrever só numa?
(Cá em Portugal, chamamos Alfaiates ao que no Brasil se dizem aranhas d’água, pequenos insectos que deslizam sobre águas paradas)
An important factor with the generation of a specific poetic style is the constituent factors present externally and internally – in you, and your composition.
My fanned influences spawn a great deal of authorships and literary movements, with special weight on Neorealism and Romanticism, but also Idealistic Philosophy and a bit of elder Argumentative Philosophy. To understand the branches that these influences establish on yourself is to understand the nature of your creative output, as we are not only heavily influenced by these injections, but they also constitute somatic markers independent from our sensibilities, in turn forming an artistic ethical compass that we often neglect to unravel. In the face of these elations, and attempting to create a general awareness of my major influences, I’ve analysed extensively what constitutes the major spine of my poetic compositions and divided it into three diverse channelling pillars:
I’ve always been greatly infused by Nature to write a multitude of enchanting imagetics. The belief that Nature governs the world, it’s laws, creating in turn an understandable and structured reality that allows contemplation without the interference of the Absolute. This volatile and permuting beauty creates infinite fodder for Art, it does so by being constantly beautiful with inconstant forms. Nature is perhaps the most globally beautiful display among individuals, as one may not agree with the beauty of deep blue eyes, but hardly will one disagree with the beauty of sightless verdant hills or the violently placid nature of an ocean. Life and all it’s ever-changing forms, emotions and the way they weave themselves into the natural landscapes – those concepts are fruit trees endlessly shedding lyricisms. (examples: Yangtze, Painting, When Takashi Kissed Messiaen)
A sense of sensibility emanating from a singular unity of all things, represented by uniform and indestructible forces tethering everything very subtly. The Monad was initially theorised by Pythagoras and then salvaged by Leibniz as an ideological perspective worth expanding. To allow this inner communion to take place is in itself a poetic combustion. It is, however, no more than a candid belief, not a material reality, like methodological naturism. My page about the Monad Series offers a better explanation about it’s intricacies.
The importation of concepts from Classical Antiquity as poetic subjects. Heroes, chaos, order, the general idiosyncrasies of human perception and emotion presented in a very primal manner. Classical Antiquity was more material in it’s artistic developments, almost more realistic, in an unashamed way. Feeling, of whatever nature, was seen generally as a grander display of elemental inadequacy. Authors of Epics and the grand Alexandria’s archived melic poets (ex. Anacreon, Sappho) were faithful only to their human natures and falsities, outcasting any sense of grandeur emanating from artistic pretentiousness.
That grounding import allows for more honest and sincere artistic spines.
USE AND NOTION THEREOF
Again, why is any of this important? Well, they are vehicles. You want to transmit a message, you analyse which medium is best and then you learn the ways of such medium. For me, it is important to be aware of which elements constitute my poetry, because I must understand it fully before anyone else can. Because if the Art of my poetry evades me, I won’t be able to convey it fully – or even partially – to any reader that offers their time to read my work. Like a garden of roses, it is necessary that we understand the process of how they grow, how they prosper, how they bloom, in order to stimulate their natural beauty and adorn our beautiful pathways, so that they (much like poems), can also inspire a yearning wanderer.
Hence why I believe it’s a very valuable tip to explore these concepts, to create a levelled relationship with your work, and perhaps who knows, learn something about yourself in the way?