Tuesday, 21 March 2000

From "Don't Start Me Talking"

[…] the time I spent in the early nineties getting into as much of the maths behind fractal and chaos theory as I could follow […] The visual work which came out of that period pretty much cured me of the desire to draw or paint, which I’d nursed for some years, as the results were just so much more interesting. Though I don’t think I realised it at the time, that work also gave me a taste for language-surfaces that weren’t necessarily impenetrably dense or difficult, but were in some fairly obvious way unstable, open to interpretation. I think experimenting with things like the Game of Life, where simple cellular patterns are allowed to interact and evolve over many generations on a computer screen, did away with my belief that I could have any real control over how an object as complex as a poem would finally be interpreted, when almost every move from word to word involved the reader in an interpretative decision whose outcome I couldn’t predict. And to answer your question, yes, I do think on one level it’s a trick I play on myself: I’m so used to looking at language – all language – up close that I see ambiguities where most people wouldn’t, my censor goes to sleep and I discover I’ve written with a candour I couldn’t have attained by more direct means.

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