Tag Archives: poetry

The Poetic Memory IV

By Stu Whitley

This is the fourth post in a four-part series.

It may be that memory is the Well of Wisdom: this idea is central to Celtic mythology. In Celtic lore, the well is situated at the centre of the Otherworld, the spiritual source, the land of the dead. Where it gushes up, pilgrims drink from it using a skull as a vessel, thereby creating a direct link with the dead. At the well of Llandeilo in Dyfed, Wales, this practice continued into the twentieth century. The skull was said to be that of St. Teilo, the ruins of whose church loomed over the well itself. The voices of the wells, usually feminine, were released in dreams. Keepers of the wells were considered to be oracles, dispensing analyses of past conduct, future guidance and even the whereabouts of lost objects. The image of a well as memory seems apt: if we had the capacity to let down our bucket sufficiently deeply, what universal truths might we find? I think it’s arguable whether we have enough rope on the well’s spool. The intuitive proof of this lies in the toss of the coin accompanied by a wish that, at one time or another, has gripped the imagination of all of us: the wisdom of sacred water. I sit silently beside a dark well so deepthe splash of tokens echoes faintlylike distant, mocking laughtereach arcing coin that tumbles undercarries a wish for, what? serenity?

I wrote of the ‘editorial memory’. By that, I mean the mind’s capacity
to organize thoughts into their essential message, to synopsise, cull,
re-frame or otherwise adjust what we have heard or experienced so that
we can cope with it, or at least participate in the filing of
particular things. This is not always helpful: after all, we may be
contumaciously dismissive of something that turns out to be quite


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The Poetic Memory II

By Stu Whitley


This  is the second post in a four-part series.

Poetry is sometimes the casualty of an age where rational clarity is considered supreme. If the message of the poet is not apparent at the first go, chuck the damn thing. This, of course, ignores the obvious reality that to try and capture all that reposes within our innermost thoughts on a particular matter may not be easily condensed and dispensed as received wisdom. I think our ability to speak clearly on important things is seriously exaggerated. Kant observed that there’s no great art in being generally comprehensible if one renounces insight. He thought that the result was a bunch of patched up observations and half-reasoned principles, which he considered to be the enjoyment of “shallowpates” in “everyday chitchat”. Jacques Maritain wrote in Creative Intuition in Art & Poetry: The law of intelligible clarity imposed by the classical tradition has…been an occasion for innumerable mediocre poems…

If this is true of poetry, which is the most economical form of condensing expressed thought, it is even truer of memory.

don’t know much about the magic of memory. We know even less about its
physiology. Our brains endlessly trawl our experiences and randomly
snatch up words and images by some sort of neurological sleight of
hand, tucking them in the sleeve for future reference. How those

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Poetic Memory

By Stu Whitley

I’ve been thinking lately about the poetry I write; the poetry I write for you
while joyful, is more than chirrup (I hope), with only a touch of elegy
more, it tries to plumb the mystery of apperception, and
the discernment of the uncommon qualities in the common things
that mark our quotidian ways: an arm-linked walk
a mug of hot tea at day’s end—these are the liturgies that shore
what always needs reinforcing; love cannot survive unilaterally

what stays in the mind’s

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