Imagine, if you will, a ‘house of fiction’ harbouring many writers, who seem to have corralled themselves into different wings of the house. In one wing no one ‘owns to’ being a poet, but in the adjacent wing there are former poets, who made the transition to writing prose when the ‘winds of fashion’ arose and there ceased to be a craze for ‘declaiming poems in public places’ to ‘cleanse the world’. These former poets are evasive about the motives for their transition, and the narrator is a bit scornful about them since their poetry was ‘no more than badly punctuated prose arranged in lines of arbitrary length’.
But, there is one former poet who explains his motives thus:
He likens poetry to whisky or gin and prose to beer, which is his only drink. He says the amount of alcohol in a given volume of beer constitutes a sort of perfect proportion or golden mean whereas whisky and other spirits are akin to poisons, with a potency out of all proportion to their volume. Poets, he says, are distillers while we writers of prose are brewers, and he strives while he writes to turn out sentence after sentence the meaning of which will keep his reader in a heightened state of awareness for hour after hour whereas the poet that he had once wanted to be might have had his reader fall forward, before long, to the table, seeing double after a surfeit of metaphors. (p. 109)
*chuckle* I know just what he means. I’m reading Sappho at the moment, in preparation for my next Masterclass at Melbourne University, where Germaine Greer is the lecturer.
Author: Gerald Murnane
Title: A Million Windows
Publisher: Giramondo, 2014
Source: Review copy courtesy of Giramondo Publishing