Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The Image and the Word

I create my images, whether in writing or in paint, brush stroke by brush stroke, word by word. They do not exist in my mind until I have created them so. I do not see them and then describe them or put them on canvas. I recognize that many — perhaps most — do not work this way.

Nabokov believed everyone thought in images. Reading his work, one can certainly see that he did. I need those words to fix what would be otherwise nebulous. I need to describe a scene to see it. I build it.

I slipped a little reference to that fact into my novel ‘Shaper,’ where our protagonist is asked to describe a suspect. He explains that he has to describe a man to himself to remember the details of his appearance. He needs to find the words that set the image in his mind. His explanation has little to do with the plot and we move on, but I can ‘see’ that suspect in my own mind still. He is made up of my words.

My poems almost always begin as a few words, a phrase, that catches my attention. They grow from that beginning. I have no firm idea about the meaning or the direction of the poem, nor do I sit down intending to ‘say something.’ That will be revealed by the words as I write. This is perhaps one reason I often write in form. Cadence and even rhyme help shape the pieces, help them find a direction.

And, of course, there is the sound of those words. I am very much one to read my stuff aloud to myself, not only the poetry but also the fiction. Dialog is spoken and so it must be heard if one is to know it is ‘right.’ (Though I am pretty good at hearing it in my head — along with those other voices!) I dislike clumsy prose and can see myself as the storyteller in the bazaar, speaking the finely-crafted lines of tradition.

Are the results worthwhile? That is for others to judge. I can only use my words to craft what I will.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

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