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No. 198 - On Writing - Mervyn Taylor.

One of the joys of interviewing poets and writers is digging into their process: how they create the magic that leads to just the right line; or the plot twist that comes out of nowhere, though later, seems as though it were staring the reader in the face all along, and somehow, though in plain sight ––– still hiding.

One afternoon in late November, 2017, Adrian Moens and I spent a few hours with the poet, Mervyn Taylor, who amongst other insights, offered this gem of wisdom regarding the wiles of the ego, below. The full interview appears within Issue No. 2 - Autumn 2017.

February Sixteenth, 2020


The Outing


And when there is

no more ice in the cooler,

and the kids hang

their heads out the car,

I turn to her and say

drive.


We don't honey

each other, we sit

silent in the sunset.

Out over the hood

the tail-lights swarm, I'm

in the mood for darkness,

and jazz.


Sitting, we travel

like a drawing-room

that moves, one kid

holds a shell, he

eased out of the sand,

it's all the money we have


save for cosiness

and sex, and sidelong

looks at the sea.

The sea? Yes, I make

a science of everything,


The orange rind

drying in the kitchen,

the doggish way the moon

herds the stars. Were it not

for the road under us,

we'd slip into

the fields. Faster, I say.

Mervyn: So the lines that came to me, as if by magic, in that way, are where the poem says, “I make a science of everything / the orange rind / drying in the kitchen,” –– the rhythm and the balance of those words is just . . . you can’t try to make that up. That just comes.


Isaac: “I make a science of everything,”


Mervyn: Yes, that’s just to lead up to it, but the real thing is “The orange rind,” listen to the music, it’s just happening, “the orange rind drying in the kitchen.” “The orange rind / drying in the kitchen.”


Isaac: Maybe the poem is doing the work, and you no longer have to.


Mervyn: Well, something like that. And then the lines that follows it, changes that sort of soft easy thing – “The orange rind / drying in the kitchen,/ the doggish way the moon / herds the stars . . .” Now, I’m not a cowboy. I don’t know anything about herding, right? But the image of how a dog herds the animals ––– put that up there, “The doggish way that the moon / herds the stars . . .” So the moon is like a sheepdog, herding those stars around. That takes the poem out of the ordinary and puts it somewhere else.


Isaac: It’s really special to be able to show people how to access that space, in their own mind.


Mervyn: If you’re lucky and if you work hard enough as a poet, it will come to you more often than not, but it doesn’t happen on its own. One question that came up on a panel at the Miami Book Fair was how do Caribbean writers make their poems accessible to the world? In other words, if you’re making local references, there are people who are not from Trinidad who may not get what that’s about, right? So that’s another challenge. How do I write about things that I love or things that remain precious to me, but have you share in that enjoyment and love, even without explaining it? So for me, these are the kind of things that you reach for, that you don’t get it too much, and if you don’t get them, what you end up doing is creating things that sound kind of clever, but they’re not quite there. These things happen on their own.


Adrian: I hear that. I experience that sometimes, when I’m writing.


Mervyn: And you have to move yourself out of the way, kind of right?


Adrian: Yeah, I get in my own way a lot.


Mervyn: Because the ego steps up.


Isaac: Watch this.


Mervyn: Yeah, watch this.

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