The Edge of Meaning in Poetry and Consciousness

Consciousness arises in multiple overlapping drafts, according to Daniel Dennett in Consciousness Explained. It can't be pinned down like a film; one cannot see the "image" of the mind in a given instant because there are so many. It's difficult to articulate how radical this notion is. "What's on your mind?", "what were you thinking", and "I'm thinking of an elephant" each imply that there is one thing going on in the brain at a time. I won't get into Dennett's evidence, but the implications are fascinating. The "stream of consciousness" can be fished, but there are too many in there even to catch in a net. The moments when a given mental draft is selected and can be observed are therefore both interesting and ambiguously consequential. Writing is one of those selection moments. What part of the chosen word is habitual, cultural, random, experiential? I doubt we will know clear answers to these questions in my lifetime and perhaps never; the brain is pretty complex. But crafting and discussing poetry represents one of the ways that stories, meaning, and relationships can be made from our grasping and attentive attempts to understand where the words came from and why.

I write poetry to see blurry snapshots of my mind refracted through the prism of language. When misanthropy pokes through, when I over-intellectualize and talk down, when I cut against concepts and feelings, I get to see a portrait of my self (I think that word deserves breathing space between the two syllables). This awareness helps me change the things I perceive to be reprehensible in There, and perhaps along the way uncover and sing the musical, literary word-voice inside me. A couple wonderful possible outcomes.

The above helps to explain the vague, sometimes apparently meaningless nature of the poetry you might read here. I am learning to write, learning my insides, and learning about language's impact on me and other people. Thank you for participating in this series of experiments and the art of it all.

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