Been contemplating this whole minimalism thing in my own writing, not that I write at all in a minimal style at the moment, but have been thinking that maybe I should investigate. What I think is that I am not *actually* thinking about minimalism per-se but rather about simplicity of language and strong placement of words. Letting the language speak for itself rather than trying to say it all, or fill in all the gaps.
During my MA year I developed a style of writing which involves the gathering of interesting language (total stealth magpie styles) and then rearranging this random cosmos of words into some kind of functional solar-system. Will the moon (word or phrase A) sit closely enough to the earth (word or phrase B) to have a sufficient magnetic pull on the earth’s ocean? How many words do I need to make up the moon, to make it strong enough to have adequate influence? How much can I scalpel out and still have the language relate and work and move and be real and convincing in the separate universe that is the poem?
So what I do, and what I will continue to do is gather language, and like a kid making a collage from magazines, cut and cut and cut the language into tiny squares of paper, and then begin to arrange and pin and glue them into new blocks of sense. It doesn’t have to look anything like the original pages of the magazine, but the final product, much like children’s art so often does, has to have its own distinct mana.
My current process (aka shoddy work system) looks like this:
This way of writing lets me do a few things. The first is that I get to see how many uneccessary words there are in the box of language I have cut up …. articles, modal verbs, prepositions and so on, while they can be really useful in the right places, aren’t needed in such prolific amounts. So I can see this whole pile of ‘the’s in the box and can choose not to use them unless I really have to.
The second and I think most important thing that it helps me to do is find new voices. I can take sentences I’ve heard people say in real life or sentences I’ve stolen from T.V. or other poets or novelists and I can cut them up and arrange them into sentences that don’t really sound like me. It’s not my voice and the register of the rearranged and odd sentences often sounds almost like normal language but not quite. Something is a bit off or on or out about the register and I love that. I get so tired of my own voice, my overuse of the words ‘totally, ‘hardcore, ‘oh my god’ and ‘weird’ among many others. And it’s the same with the stories I have to tell and the way I tell them, there is such a ‘me’ ness to the way I tell about the world, and it gets really f%$cking boring!
This way of writing gets me out of that. Phew.
The other thing on my mind with this whole simplicity of writing thing, is how strange it is that the final part of my thesis last year was about magic, and included magic spells, and here I end up in a part of the world where magic truly still exists for the local people.
Candomblé and its voodoo style practices and rituals is alive and kicking here. Yesterday we visited a shop where you could buy different coloured candles to burn for your own personal Orixá (God), beads to make necklaces to wear in honour of the Orixás, shells to throw like runes as messages from them … and so on.
The owner, a towering, handsome Candomblé priest, told us casually (translated from Portuguese) how earlier that morning a woman who wasn’t supposed to be practicing Candomblé rituals at that time (I think that what he said is that she had her period and so was forbidden until it was finished) had practiced anyway, and as a result had been possessed by an Orixá who was angry with her, and so had possessed her angrily and caused a scene in the church. It was a laughing matter, as if it happened regularly – although I think only retrospectively as I assume the practices are taken seriously when happening.
So, I wonder if minimalism / sparsity in language should be my main concern at the moment, or whether it’s more wise (wiser?) to pay attention to the clear signs that this experience here on the island of Itaparica is related in an obvious way to my already established interests.