Thursday, February 10, 2011

Write it: embrace the beautiful danger

I have been Rousseaud into the day by the work of poet Jo Thorpe. This lovely verb 'To Rousseau' is in her new collection in/let: 'some ringlet of music/might Rousseau me into the day.' (Twlight and melancholies)

A dancer, dance reviewer and teacher of dance history, the elegant Jo writes poems that do indeed 'dance' - in their language, their musicality, the way they move... Poet Bill Manhire comments on the way Jo's poems 'notice' movement and follow it, and go between 'between stillness and frenzy'.

Amongst other things - not least sinewy/rich poems on being a mother, on being alive, on attending to things, on writing - Jo writes about the stuff of dance and what makes it. How to dance your own body's legend is one of those.

It begins 'Choose the site carefully. Find one that will hold you/ in-side nuance. Create your own mise-en-scene...' It could be a poem about writing just as easily.

Jo continues describing how the dancer enters the 'Now', moves 'through the animal', makes 'room for the bird', follows 'the wind-spool'. She bids the dancer/reader to 'embrace the beautiful danger' at the core:

Watch how it grins and glares at you, that blur
at the edge of field, blur on the edge of shape -- find the
keel of it, the red that pecks, the claw angling for the back.

Brilliant advice for the writer - too many of whom take the safe and familiar path, the place they think they should put their feet or where they think other people want them to go (I read a lot of novel manuscripts...) And even if they (hurrah!) 'find the keel of it', one of the biggest weaknesses in manuscripts I find is that too many writers let it go in the latter quarter of a novel, the boat founders, the red becomes pink, the claw wears a glove, and - god forbid - they start to tidy up (think claw as duster), heading for a tidy end, a 'satisfactory' end .... or maybe they just run out of steam or imagination. Poets do this too.

Jo, rightly, bids the dancer (the reader, the writer) not to give up at this point. 

Back, safe, from the flight through the intuitive
resist even now the wanting-to-be-calmed,
the 'clear-lit custody of knowing'. Furrow-up the stone path.
Lick your way through the glittering city (its fabled glass).
Play in the slipstream. This is how the story opens. 
This is how the necessary heat rolls in.

Bravo!! (Note: there shouldn't be gaps between the lines - blame blogger formatting)

Oh I love this poet. Her book is only $20 at good bookshops or online at Steele Roberts. And you can read one of her find-the-keel, glittering poems about a dancer here on Tuesday Poem.


Melissa Green said...

Mary, what a splendid encomium of a poet I cannot wait to read. What a joyous discovery Jo Thorpe is--so strong and compelling and imperative. Thank you, thank you for writing so beautifully about her. I feel so delighted I want to rush out to meet her, to listen to her voice over a cup of tea--thank you, Mary. xo

Claire Beynon said...

I'm agree with Melissa, Mary - how you honour Jo and her exciting, all-muscle-no-fat work. I love its tautness, the evidence of discipline and training (which is not to say it's missing softness, roundness, sensual texture. . . to the contrary, perhaps these qualities are enhanced because they're not lying wantonly on the surface?). Jo really is something. Thanks, Mary.xo