Catch the Pigeon

Lucy Furlong is currently completing her MFA in creative writing.  She recently had a poem included in English Pen’s Poems for Pussy Riot anthology, Catechism, and has a poem in the latest issue of Structo magazine. Sometimes she performs her work, if she can get a babysitter.


Aesthetic – what does it mean exactly? And more particularly what does it mean if you are a writer? The online Oxford Dictionaries lists it, amongst other things, as: “a set of principles underlying the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.

The poet and musician Patti Smith is quoted as saying hers were fully developed at an early age:

“All I ever wanted to be was an artist. I’ve always been driven aesthetically. It used to get me in trouble. I used to wear the same thing every day to school as a kid. I had a uniform consciousness. Even the teacup that I drank from…I didn’t like plastic, I liked porcelain. By 12 (my aesthetics) were totally defined.”

In the midst of writing my first full collection of poetry for my MFA dissertation, I have been confronted with the issue of what exactly my poetry aesthetic is, and is it affected by my personal aesthetics? So far the answers are: I’m not sure but I’ve got a few clues; Yes, of course… Can the two be separated- must they be? No one would separate Patti Smith the person from her poetry, her writing, music or art. But what makes her work so distinctive?

Whilst I was loitering in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern yesterday, waiting to see the Lichtenstein retrospective, I talked to a friend about my investigation into aesthetics and what that meant in relation to the aesthetic at work in my own poetry. She wondered if it meant I was ‘pigeonholing’ my work, categorising myself. I considered this for a moment and thought that she probably had a point but that it was also about time I set down a few working boundaries for this collection.

I have experimented with all kinds of ways of writing poems, from concrete to formal, from prose to fragmented free verse. It has been hugely enjoyable and a great opportunity to try different ways of working. There are some clear themes and subject matter emerging and I am now in a position to have some idea of what I want to achieve, of what I am aiming for.

In the bookshop I picked up the Bloomsbury Anthology of Aesthetics. The introduction mentions the origins of the use of the word in the eighteenth century, from Alexander Baumgarten’s intention for a science of “sensuous cognition.”

That sounded better than the problematic received notions of taste, value and other connotations which the word aesthetic is also associated with. It took me back in the direction of Patti Smith and a quote from Robert Mapplethorpe in her book Just Kids. While discovering his own aesthetic and making decisions about his work that Smith didn’t like she asked him what he was thinking. His response was: “I don’t think… I feel.”

Where does this get me in defining and refining the aesthetic at play in my own work? With 25 draft poems towards my collection, in various states of completion, I can see a shape forming through them. In some places it is clearly visible, in others shifting, in a few it is barely perceptible. I’m not sure how I am going to realise this shape yet and make it tangible but I am feeling my way through it with a little more knowledge than before.

It’s not a pigeonhole – it’s a carrier pigeon.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lucyfurleaps
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 09:24:53

    Reblogged this on LucyFurLeaps and commented:
    Here’s my post on aesthetics for the Kingston University MFA Creative Writing blog


  2. Daftmole
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 14:26:03

    Ah Ha!


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