— Cultural Sources of Newness

Fishing for ideas

This morning I learned from Melvyn Bragg’s documentary about Ted Hughes that the poet spent a great deal of time fishing. His capacity for intense concentration was nurtured by that activity, and many of his poems relate to it. My own fishing is not out on a lake in the wilderness, but inside, in books, on BBC radio 4, on Google, and in long conversations (preferably over meals). It is not pike or brown trout that I seek, but ideas.     The way in which Ted Hughes explained to an audience how he conceives of writing struck a chord in me. He asked:

“How can a poem, for instance, about a walk in the rain, be like an animal? Well, perhaps it can’t look much like a giraffe, or an emu, or an octopus or anything you might find in the menagerie. It is better to call it an assembly of living parts, moved by a single spirit. The living parts are the words, the images, the rhythms.

The spirit is the life which inhabits these when they all work together. It is impossible to say which comes first, parts or spirit. But if any of the parts are dead, if any of the words or images or rhythms don’t jump to life as you read them, then the creature is going to be maimed and the spirit sickly. So, as a poet you have to make sure all that those parts of which you have control, the words, the rhythms, the images are alive. That’s where the difficulties begin.”

 

Hearing these words got me to wonder what our writing as academics would be like if we took these concepts to heart. What if we conceived of our writing as “an assembly of living parts,” as something that has a spirit? Might we have more of an impact with our ideas if we worked with an awareness of the possibility of crafting texts that “jump to life”?

Moving from aural to visual and tactile modes of fishing, I turned off the BBC and typed the string of words from Ted Hughes into Google: “It is better to call it an assembly of living parts, moved by a single spirit. The living parts are the words, the images, the rhythms.” The resulting catch was a fascinating mixture (listed at the bottom of this post).

The first five hits all cite exactly the same words, but come from diverse authors who use the sentences for different purposes. The Ted Hughes society, a site created by French students of literature and the arts, the site of a professor in Texas offering an online course in English literature, and the blog of a post graduate student who is “itching to do a PhD in Edinburgh in the next year, but adopting the ‘seize the day’ approach and gathering my rose buds in the real world in the meantime… Devoted to an Ghaeilge (Irish) and a’ Ghàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) – this is and will be my life’s work. Blogger, writer, apprentice poet. Educator (when given the chance). I thrive on all things cultural and beautiful. Major bird enthusiast and child of Nature. Pagan.”  Of course, since I am fishing on Google, I also caught a Google books reference.

Then Google took me further afield, offering links that contained some of the words used by Ted Hughes, but embedded in completely different (con-)texts: The Frankfurt School, The Culture of Zimbabwe, Native Americans, John Cage and Che Guevara.

What a poet like Ted Hughes might make of this extraordinarily diverse catch I would love to learn. But my academic mind is pursuing another path. As a researcher who uses Google to track down old and new material, this eclectic mix of hits makes me wonder how the search engine decides what combination to offer for my perusal, for there are certainly many, many, many, more sites available that use the complete sentences I typed in to start my search. Google chose 5 of them somehow, and then presented me with a globally dispersed offering of 5 more sites whose writers who also use the terms “spirit” “living” “part” and “words.”  Google stretches my mind with this diversity, yet leaves me uncertain: what might it also be hiding from view?

Fortunately, I have two colleagues in the research unit who are experts in this area, Jeanette Hofmann and Thomas Petzold. So I could fish face-to-face next week in the office….

The first 10 hits Google offered me on Saturday morning, December 17 2011:

Poetry in the Making – The Ted Hughes Society

www.thetedhughessociety.org/poetryinthemaking.htm

[A poem is] an assembly of living parts moved by a single spirit. The living parts are the words, the images, the rhythms. and feelings, to “give some part of our experience a more or less permanent shape outside ourselves” [10]. an artist manages to capture the spirit of human experience in this way, we call it poetry.

Ted Hughes, To Paint a Water lily – Lettres-et-Arts.net

www.lettres-et-arts.net/…francophones/63-ted_hughes_to_paint_a_w…

It is better to call it an assembly of living parts moved by a single spirit. The living spirit are the words, the images, the rhythms. The spirit is the life which inhabits

·  Post Modernism

www.inkyweb.com/brit_lit_II/The…/post_modernism.html

It is better to call it an assembly of living parts moved by a single spirit. The living parts are the words, the images, the rhythms. The spirit is the life which inhabits

·  Alison Ní Dhorchaidhe: Ted Hughes – “Imagine what you are writing …

alisonnidhorchaidhe.blogspot.com/…/ted-hughes-imagine-what-you-…

It is better to call it an assembly of living parts moved by a single spirit. The living parts are the words, the images, the rhythms. The spirit is the life which inhabits

·  A midsummer night’s dream – Google Books Result

books.google.com/books?isbn=1402206895William Shakespeare, Terri Bourus, David Bevington – 2006 – Drama – 268 pages
After a performance of More Words, a show devised and directed by Cicely Berry and he advises, “It is better to call [the poem] an assembly of living parts moved by a single spirit. The living parts are the words, the images, the rhythms.

·  Frankfurt School: The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass …

www.marxists.org/reference/archive/adorno/…/culture-industry.htm

Source: most of one chapter from Dialectic of Enlightenment; in search of work and pleasure, all the living units crystallise into well-organised complexes. …. The alliance of word, image, and music is all the more perfect than in Tristan because the Their whole raison d’être is to confirm it by being its constituent parts.

·  Culture of Zimbabwe – history, people, traditions, women, beliefs …

www.everyculture.com › To-Z

All those groups called on the support of the spirit world in the struggle for particularly in terms of the use of space, and the structure and practice of government. is the most important factor in the standard of living among smallholder families. …. The major grain for consumption is maize, although in parts of the Zambezi

·  NATIVE AMERICANS or AMERICAN INDIANS

history-world.org/american_indians_or_native_ameri.htm

Perhaps the Indians moved along this area as they needed new hunting grounds. Gradually the ice melted, and the Indians spread to most parts of both Americas . It has been estimated that only about 1025000 were living north of Mexico they called the community houses pueblos from the Spanish word for village.

·  John Cage – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cage

Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th …. He went to Santa Monica, California, where he made a living partly by giving …. Although Cage did not share the idea of spirits, these words inspired him to …. The reaction to 4′33″ was just a part of the larger picture, however: on the

·  Che Guevara – Wikiquote

en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Che_Guevara

28 Oct 2011 – I knew that the moment the great governing spirit strikes the blow to …. The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the There are truths so evident, so much a part of people’s knowledge, ….. The standard of living in those countries is based on the extreme poverty of our countries.