Thinking about prose/poetry —again

by bjmuirhead

For the first time since 1983, I have started reading Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. (The Scott Moncrief/Terence Kilmartin edition published by Chatto & Windus in 1982)

Immediately I was taken to a mental state that I commonly associate with visual experience. This is the state which most people experience when falling in love, the state in which gazing at the beloved is an all consuming action and passion. A state in which every small feature of the beloved’s face sems to be of overwhelming importance and worthy of all focus.  This type of state is one which I experience when looking at people, things, horizons, that is, when I am really looking, not just seeing and dismissing what is around me. (This is my test of an artwork—do I want to keep looking? Am I finding something to look at after several hours? Do I find something new each time I look? Of course, I find this in works which others pass over quickly, but that is personal experience and attraction, and the subject of other ramblings, perhaps.)

Prose, for me, needs to do the same thing, and so little does this. More personally, this is what I have attempted to achieve with (some) of my work. Re-reading Proust has merely made this obvious to me, when previously I was merely wandering a little, without deeply knowing my own aims. If nothing else, I now know the direction I need to take in re-evaluating my aims and past work.

…To achieve a floating reader…  (with apologies to Milan Kundera.)