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The Mesh: Tears in the Fence Festival Theme

The Mesh: Tears in the Fence Festival Theme

The Mesh is a term used in Timothy Morton’s The Ecological Thought (2010). Morton uses an analogy of a piece of mesh to describe how he thinks about ecology. His thesis is, essentially, that to understand ecology, you have to make connections between things that you may not expect to have anything to do with the environment. For example, there might be an eco-crisis brought out about by deforestation because a particular tribe, religion, or culture, make clothes out of a specific plant. To understand that environmental crisis, you would have to take into account the religion or the culture that contributed to it. His theory of the mesh encourages people to look from many different perspectives in order to obtain a fuller picture and broader understanding.

His approach to ecology, I think, offers a good theme because it involves finding links within the world and understanding relationships. We live in an age of divisions: from Brexit, to the far left and far right, and rapidly evolving technology causing generations to grow apart faster than they ever have before. It is useful and refreshing to hear about the relationships between things, rather than the divides.

The mesh implies that there is no simple right or wrong relationship implied within a given situation or state. A mesh is simply an interweaving of many different threads, pulling the emphasis away from binary standpoints and more towards a plurality of ideas that interconnect.

Similarly, Morton’s Mesh allows for an interesting approach to the poetry that might be generated as a result of the theme. I shall illustrate this Morag Kiziewicz’s poem, ‘Hi Tracey’ published in Tears in the Fence 65.

In the second stanza of ‘Hi Tracey’, Morag’s speaker discusses how she images her “hippy” worldview would clash with that of the artist, Tracey Emin. Morag sets up the two opposing views, only to juxtapose them further by introducing a third view, a girl wearing t-shirt reading, ‘GENDER FREE FUTURE’.

This unexpected ending creates connections between different factions of the left wing political sphere, the divergent perceptions of gender in contemporary culture, and the frictions (or joyful differences) between intergenerational worldviews. This is exactly the kind of interconnected thinking that Morton summarises in the mesh. There are no stereotypical left or right wing figures in the poem, only nuanced perceptions of the world and hints about the relationship between these perceptions. The perceptions of other people’s perceptions, if you will.

The piece also sprawls out to connect poetry to the concept of what can be defined as art by contrasting the t-shirt to Tracey Emin’s iconic bed installation and paintings by Francis Bacon. The t-shirt represents a form of art that, being mobile, crosses the borders of privilege set up by art galleries with high entry fees (and extortionate prices in adjoining gift shops and cafes). But the message of Morag’s poem is not simply THE FUTURE IS COMING. Certainly, the final image of the t-shirt does look to a future in which genders are reworked or dissolved completely. Yet the form of the t-shirt itself brings with it the associations of concrete poetry popularised in the first two characters’ youths. Therefore a cyclical pattern is produced in which older ideas are recycled and adapted to fit the ideologies of the burgeoning era. Nothing is a statement on its own. Everything is linked. While I may have been side tracked by a bit of close analysis, it is these kind of connections that summarise Morton’s idea of a ‘sprawling mesh of interconnection without definite centre or edge’. (page 8).

Since the mesh discourages the reader (or writer) from following a binary trail of logic, this could bring about surprises in poetry. Some of the best poetry surprises us by turning away from the expected ending, ultimately drawing out an undercurrent within the poem, or widening it to a larger plane of meaning. So, writing with the mesh in mind can strengthen our work.

To summarise in a sentence. The mesh involves looking at things from multiple perspectives or having multiple viewpoints present in the same poem, which can improve poetry because it creates surprises by diverting away from the expected to achieve a wider plane of meaning.

I hope this generates some really interesting discussion points, as well as poetry at this year’s festival.

Joanna Nissel 19th February 2018

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Picture This: Tears in the Fence at 60

Picture This: Tears in the Fence at 60

60 editions of Tears in the Fence, plus the Larmer Tree special issue – and if you have any copies, we’d love to see them.

We want to gather as many photos of copies/collections of TITF as possible for display at the Festival (October 24-26th in Dorset UK. See tearsinthefence.com/festival).

Whether you have one copy, 20 copies or even the whole lot (!!), please take a photo and send it to us:

A. Picture them any way you want – snap them where they stand on your bookshelves; pile ‘em high on your desk; or make any arrangement you like – even put yourself in the photo (a TITF selfie!)

B. Send the photo to tearsinthefence@gmail.com, or post it on the TITF Facebook group page; or tweet it using the hashtag #titf60

Any information about yourself, e.g. the country you live in, thoughts on the magazine etc. will be entirely a bonus.

Now: get your phone and… SNAP!

Your participation really matters.

Privacy and permissions
The purpose of the ‘Picture This’ project is to create a display board full of photos at the Festival (as part, by the by, of demonstrating the reach of the magazine).

We would also like to use some in posts on Facebook and twitter, and some or all on the website, as part of the publicity drive for the Festival. If you would prefer that we do NOT use your photo and/or your name online, please let us know when you submit your photo.

Many thanks again for your participation

The TITF team

John Freeman at the Tears In the Fence Festival

John Freeman at the Tears In the Fence Festival

We are excited that John Freeman, a long time and regular contributor to the magazine will be reading at the Tears in the Fence Festival, on Saturday, 25th October. Our Festival will be held in a large marquee by the White Horse, Stourpaine, Dorset, on 24th -26th October, in the heart of beautiful countryside. The venue nestles beneath Hod Hill and is close to the north Dorset Trailway.

John Freeman is a leading exponent of the prose poem and an authority on the British Poetry Renaissance. A Lecturer in English at University College, Cardiff since 1972, John specialises in modern poetry, the Romantics, and Creative Writing. His most recent books include White Wings: New and Selected Prose Poems (Contraband, 2013), A Suite for Summer (Worple Press, 2007) and a critical work The Less Received: Neglected Modern Poets (Stride Publication, 2000).

In Tears in the Fence 59, Ian Brinton described White Wings as a book that ‘when you have read it you will want to keep turning back to it time and again.’ He notes that ‘these pieces by Freeman give us pictures caught in the act of movement’ and that they ‘possess
a palpability’ of the precise unfurling of the moment. Freeman continues to probe the present moment in this poem in Tears in the Fence 60.

The Exchange By The Stile

Let it be creation, let it be even
illusion, the sense of a coherence
in the story we tell ourselves of ourselves,
isn’t it a story worth telling? We have
only the present moment, they say, breathing
in, breathing out, but what of how, driving
along the humming dual carriageway
in early May, I notice the beginnings
of small new leaves on trees where a stile guards
the path I used to walk along the river,
often alone, but one time with my father,
and feel a presence here as delicate
as the tender shoots not fully open.
Because I forget what either of us said
at this spot, I remember, driving on,
what he said later after we had skirted
the playing fields under the trees beside
this same river, the other side of it –
we’d have crossed it on the springy footbridge.
We were deep in placid communion,
about to leave the green part of the walk
to cross a busy road and head for home.
I touched his arm and we turned and stood still,
seeing the grass and the tall woods behind us,
and he said that looking back was something
he wished he’d thought to do and done more often.
He meant it literally about his years
of walking, cycling, and exploring, but then
the hidden meaning in it overtook him,
and we both heard it in the same instant,
ambushed, together, by unspoken feeling.
Whatever it was that happened and was said
at that stile I flash past on my journey,
or merely passed unsaid but felt between us,
it was present in that later retrospect,
the two moments fused into one moment,
infusing this one, not by an act of will,
but as fragrance taking me unawares,
like the penetrating scent of lilac
that caught me yesterday by the front gate
taking me back to mornings in my childhood.
We live in so much more than just the present.

In an interview with Gavin Goodwin in Tears in the Fence 59, Freeman said that his most consistent drive in writing White Wings was the ‘raising of consciousness’ to avoid sleep-walking through life.

Freeman is a measured reader of poetry and we have a treat in store.
We can’t wait!

David Caddy 19th September 2014

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