Friday, 20 April 2018

So by Sandra Horn


So. I hope you’ll notice how on-trend this is. It is the latest thing, to begin a statement or an answer with ‘So.’ It’s peculiar, but with any luck it will supersede the idiotic ‘like’, which Alexander Armstrong twitted so nicely in a sketch set in (I think) 18th century: ‘I fear the speech of the young has fallen off sadly of late; I can remember when they would commonly use as many as six similes in a single sentence: I was like, and he was like, then we were like...’ etc.  I can’t remember the exact words so this is an approximation. 

Why bother about these things at all, I hear you ask. Because I’m at a loose end, that’s why. Bad case of the dreaded Writer’s Block. Too much time on my hands in which to nitpick and grump. The garden has been too sodden to do anything much. I’ve tried taking up knitting and I’m very proud of the sweater shown here, made of leftover yarns and bits and pieces. Not as proud as I would be if I didn’t know about all the mistakes, but the overall effect isn’t bad.  I’ve just finished it, in time for the weather to warm up.



It has occurred to me that perhaps the knitting has prolonged the Block. It’s all spatial and demands a lot of concentration. My spatial abilities don’t bear thinking about, so maybe I’ve shut down my word-making brain because I’ve been battling so hard with them there’s been no room for anything else.

Alternatively, having recently got to not-quite-the-end of the 52 poems challenge, perhaps I’ve just run out of steam.  I got as far as poem 47, Learning Your Lesson and I wrote about learning to knit, sitting on my Great-grandmother’s knee; in, round, through, JUMP him off! And she would bounce me up and the stitch off.  It was delightful and I was quite pleased with the poem, but the next one, macaronic verse, finished me. It is, in case you haven’t come across it, a form in which ‘two languages co-exist, often in alternating form, so that one implicitly comments on the other.’ I couldn’t hack it in Italian and English, so went back to schoolgirl French and English, but all I could come up with was a sorry little 4-line jingle. Depressing. After that, I couldn’t face the last four themes: 49, Everything is Illuminated, 50, Pulling Punches, 51 Year of the Goat and 52, A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning. They are an absolute gift, or would be if my brain hadn’t seized up.
I still hope to complete all 52 sometime. It’s been a stimulating and illuminating exercise and to some extent, it did what I’d hoped: it immersed me in poetry. There was always something to read, often new to me, as part of the exercise, and on most days of every week I was thinking about the task. It also produced extra poems not on the to-do list and enabled me to confront and write about some deeply personal things I hadn’t been able to deal with up to then.  That was a surprise.
As I went on through the tasks, I added some things I’d already written which seemed to be relevant to that week’s theme. I’ve ended up with a folder of about 70. 



I know some of them are bad or very bad, some need more work, and some are not for public consumption, they just filled a need, but I’m hoping that in amongst the dross there may be some twinkling nuggets. I’m pleased with some of them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The next step will be to subject them to members of my Writers’ Group for some critical feedback (or do I mean subject the writers to the poems?). So. We’ll see.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

For someone with writers block you sound extraordinarily productive! To reach 47 out of 52 poems, not to mention the extras, is a huge achievement. I’d never heard of the macaronic style and am baffled: can good poetry really result from alternating two languages? I fear much artifice and doggerel but my ignorance is probably the reason here. If you can give any examples of great macaronic poetry I’d love to know. And the stunning jumper!
Oh yes, that wretched So. Horribly overused, its function seems to be to render the speaker more confident, answering a question with the implication ‘I’ve already explained this but I’ll go through it again, as clearly you didn’t understand the first time.’ Yuk.

Sandra Horn said...

Thank you, Griselda - I'd worked through the poems before I seized up, and to be fair, it did also say that you could use two different registers of English, dialogue and legalese, for example. I couldn't do that either! I thought of alternating science with myth in a poem about the aurora borealis, but it made my brain ache. Boo hoo.

Susan Price said...

Loved the post, Sandra -- and carry on with the poems! As Griselda says, 42 poems is a tremendous achievement -- what does it matter if you manage 'only' 51 out of 52 -- or 42 out of 52 for that matter. It's 42 more poems than most people have written this year. 42 more than I've written this lifetime.

But I don't get the hatred of starting sentences with 'so.' Is it a new thing? I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. Likewise, starting sentences with 'Well,...' I did meet a foreigner, from as far away as Wiltshire, who had moved to the West Midlands, and he said starting sentences with 'well; was a Midlands thing. "Well, shall we start, then? Well, are you going away this year? Well, are you planning to grow your own vegetables?' And so on and so on.

I have to stop myself writing dialogue that always begins, 'So...' (but only because it gets tedious on the written page.) In talking, I do it all the time. "So, what are we thinking of doing tonight? -- So, how do I begin this? -- So, where can I find -- ?"

I don't think, as Griselda does, that it implies any superiority. I think it means something like, 'After all the suggestions that have been made, let's take a pause and make a decision.' Or, 'I've listened to everything you've said. Now remind me, how do I begin?'

So, what does everyone else think?

Bill Kirton said...

Yes, Sandra, I agree with Griselda. Speaking as a master of displacement activities, I’m very impressed with your productivity. Mainly, though, With due regard to and my continued admiration for Susan, I want to say how glad I am to hear that someone else is disturbed by this unfathomable tendency to preface remarks with “so”. It’s a real word, with meaning, suggesting that what will follow is a consequence of what had preceded it and yet people who should know better trot it out time after time. I drive my wife crazy by constantly yelling at guilty parties on the radio or television. All she worries about is Brexit, Trump or grandchildren.

Sandra Horn said...

I don't so much hate it as am niggled by it, Sue - especially since it's catching! I have to fight to stop myself doing it now! Also, it is a bit different from your usage, I think - eg. 'What do you do for a living?' 'So, I'm a bus conductor.'

AliB said...

Yay for the knitting and the poetry, Sandra. I find knitting very therapeutic though I don't do anything very fancy. I think using a different part of the brain is good and unlikely to block the other part! It's also part of the need to slow-down and de-stress in our flash bang wallop world. Occasionally when I feel overwhelmed, I think 'I need to knit.' Loving the jumper. Ali

Jane said...

As a knit designer who designs "recipes" for other knitters not to follow (it's complicated but the simple explanation is that I inspire others to be their own designers), I'm impressed. Your sweater is lovely. In my case, I knit to counterbalance my writing. In my fictive world, I'm organized, busily plotting and keeping my worlds together whereas knitting allows me to proceed with abandon.

Susan Price said...

We're obviously at cross-purposes because if I asked someone, 'What do you do for a living?' I would also find it annoying to be answered, 'So, I'm a bus conductor.'
It makes no sense!

Bill Kirton said...

Exactly, Susan. Worst for me are academics or experts on programmes such as 'In Our Time'.

Melvyn Bragg: Dr X, could you take us through the early years of Archimedes?

Dr X: So, he was born in...


GRRRRR.

Enid Richemont said...

Love that jumper, Sandra - a very profitable displacement activity.

Re- 'So'. Didn't Seamus Heaney begin his translation of Beowulf with 'So'?

Sandra Horn said...

Yes, Enid. I think it's a sort of 'Well,' or 'Now, here's a thing...' in that case.