The first time I came into contact with the idea of Dark Matter was when I was 17 and in the midst of reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. In the second volume of this trilogy, Pullman introduces the idea of dark matter being linked to parallel universes. To someone who has always had an intrinsic curiosity and need to understand the universe, this idea immediately took hold.
During my time studying at University and writing outside of it, I noticed that throughout my writing, a common theme emerged: space and what’s out there. There was always an underlying feeling, that I guess I could sense in myself, moving through the every day that (as Patrick Ness would put it) there is ‘more than this’.
Fast forward to my last semester of my third and final year at uni, I had finished my dissertation, finished my last critical essay and with my last creative writing portfolio I had some time to do something I really wanted to do and to have a little fun with it. So then came the question, okay what do I want to do? Prose? Well I did prose for my dissertation. Short stories? Well I had done that only the year before…I hadn’t written poetry for an assignment in a while but I write it all the time so what can I do to really make this time different?
The module this portfolio was for was named ‘Critiquing writing’ and in it we studied Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy Gentlemen – don’t get me wrong, totally not my kinda thing either. However, whilst studying this text I did learn a valuable writing lesson: don’t be afraid to do something different. Famously, in Tristram Shandy, Sterne includes a blank/black page to signify a death. This playing around with form and what you can do with a form of writing, be it a novel or a poem is what started me on this path.
Experimental poetry, blank space and dark matter.
Experimental poetry is a corner of poetry that very rarely gets taken seriously. I myself have been the culprit of scoffing at a poet’s attempt to be ‘different’ as I would have said. But looking at the bare bones of this form lies something I think almost every writer can relate to and aspire to: freedom and challenging the readily available ‘acceptable’ ways of crafting words into meaning.
Dark energy roughly makes up 68% percent of the universe and dark matter a smaller 27%. This leaves around 5% to us, this is what we see, what we experience, every day; on a miniscule molecular level and a vast universal, stars, planets, nebula level. 5% of the makings of the universe is what is observable to us, what is called ordinary matter, because light can pass through it. The rest is in shadow, mysterious beyond the point of fathoming. This notion more than anything else in the world has astounded, inspired, grounded and put my tiny little life into perspective for many years now.
So if around 95% of the universe has gone awol, what can it mean? There are gaps in our understanding, in our seeing. Gaps. In poetry, gaps are called ‘white space’. At uni we were taught that white space is just as important in conveying the meaning of a poem as the words in it: this got me thinking. White space, dark matter, blank space in the universe, black space.
Poetry sometimes has the ability to articulate the most confounding elements of life and experience. Poetry can tackle the abstract and the things we don’t fully understand. In this vein I asked myself, why shouldn’t poetry and physics match? Physics, a subject so wide spanning and all encapsulating can sometimes and for some people be just too big. So, especially in regards to something such as dark matter and dark energy, surely the poetic form and experimental poetry particularly could make some sense of it all on a more human level.
From here I set out to utilise the white space (which eventually ended up being a kind of black space) and metaphoric arena given to me through the form of poetry to take the reader on a journey of understanding but more importantly to hopefully create the same awe in them that I have for the Universe and it’s wonders.
Something a little leftfield: grappling with that work/life balance.
Here’s me putting my hands up.
Since the start of summer (May in my book) I have been working and so therefore haven’t had much energy, motivation or chance to really invest time in this project, it’s very easy when working to lose sight of what makes you happy outside of work; you can get into a bit of a rut. But with more time off coming up in the near future, a trip away to Budapest and reigniting this blog I hope to make some progress by the new year.
p.s I am also currently reading Brian Greene’s The Fabric of The Cosmos (might do a post about this when I finish it), I highly recommend it, for anyone having a lack of inspiration – it has certainly got the cogs and wheels turning in my head.