Reflections/poem biography for Meditation on/with/for a Buzz
Meditation on with for 3 smaller

“That winter I hang with the bees
above hibernation and frost.”

For me, this poem is about the almost impossible task of concentrating solely on the senses. With every sound, smell, taste, sensation, sooner or later thoughts follow.

The types of meditation I have tried either concentrate on the senses or on repeating a mantra as a focus. When the thoughts come, I try to just observe them and let them go, but this letting go can only happen once I become aware that I am already in the grip of thoughts or imagination…by which stage I might be half-way to the moon, planning the weekly shop or worrying about bills.

Outside of meditation itself, come thoughts about thoughts, these thoughts framed in language. Separating experience from language is hard, even when focussing directly and with as much concentration as possible on the senses. Set against this, the irony that if I examine any word closely enough, it falls to pieces in some way.

I don’t want to even try to paraphrase the work of linguists like Ferdinand de Saussure, simply ask how alike is the word ‘apple’ to things we experience as an ‘apple’? The word itself has no taste, no colour…yet hear someone use the word and I’m able to tap into memories of a certain tang and texture on my tongue. At very least, I have some concept of what they are talking about. Or I think I have. But what is the precise essence of appleness in all the different varieties – Cox, Pippin, Pink Lady – that we might use the word ‘apple’ for?

Thoughts and questions could chase each other round and round for days. Language is a representation, not the actual thing. There is always an arbitrary element to it. Or, as Shakespeare put it in the often paraphrased lines from Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose | By any other name would smell as sweet.”

As for the buzz, well, meditation can bring me a great feeling of inner peace, light and clarity. But, by tuning into the senses and things around me, I can also come away from meditation feeling suddenly more awake and alert – almost buzzing, though not in quite such an overly energetic or noisy way.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Points

1) How easy is it to follow precisely what this poem is describing? Does any potential confusion help to actively demonstrate the arbitrariness of words?

2) If you read this aloud – feeling the sounds in your mouth and on the tongue, as well as the ear – do any of the words start to feel like physical objects in their own right rather than merely noise/symbols in a system (if language)? How and in what way?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Focus first on an object. Then focus on the word that you’d use for that object. Try saying the word aloud, again and again and again. Does the word change the more you say it? What, if any, actual direct similarities are there between the object and the word for that object? Imagine this word was the word for an entirely different object – perhaps that feels more suited/similar in some way to the word. What kind of journey/nightmare/experiment/transformation would be needed to turn the first object into this second object? Is there a poem or story in these observations? Or in the possible reasons behind attempting such a change? (For an example of an existing fictional transformation, consider the pumpkin that becomes Cinderella’s coach.)

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.