Name: Dorothy Lehane
Hometown: Maidstone, Kent
Occupation: Lecturer in Creative Writing
What does poetry mean to you?
The complex thought processes that occur in that intimate space of writing and editing poetry seem to me to align with theories of quantum mechanics. I’m interested in that, but also how strategies of evasion, displacement and obfuscation inherent in the post-modern confessional mode —which is a mode I frequently occupy—present a profound uncertainty, fallibility, and a slipperiness of language that connects to the real experience of living. So, writing poetry has become my way of processing the world and the performance that is being alive within the world.
Favorite poet: Anne Boyer
Why do you like this poet?
Anne Boyer’s Garments Against Women intertwines theory and memoir into a series of poems that shift our ideas surrounding the confessional approach to poetic representations of suffering. Boyer’s text questions how a sick writer can survive in the contemporary, material world.
Reimagining the characteristics of confessional poetry, Boyer subverts the notion that confessional poetry is self-indulgent, sentimental, or a trivial pursuit. Her poems are conversational and quotidian while simultaneously philosophical and politically radical, and their direct and accessible approach is in tension with the coded, deliberately indecipherable phrasing, demanding that the reader intervenes in the act of reading.
In Garments Against Women, Boyer engages with (amongst other things) issues surrounding the emotional experience of living with illness; language is problematic, it cannot describe or articulate the nuances of the body’s expressions. In my tribute poem, the words dynamically collapse upon weighted notes, moving towards a moment of settlement before being further disrupted with a new set of weights emerging. The poetry is now in the coding, and the code represents technological progress, using movement and dancing language to illustrate its position, recasting the poetics through technocratic endeavour. The urge to move is in the body, mind and universe, and this poem charts the rhythm we encounter in all aspects of living.
Despite its parataxis, and despite sickness, the urge to move is ever present in its kinetic and shifting language. Language is resilient. The energies are political, they transfigure the potential of social ideas which are underpinned; uttered in the graphics, in their play, in their hypnotic and transforming effect. There is an ideology and spirit at work: technology is moving, people are moving, language is moving.
After some moments of settlement, my graphic shifts and begins a new cycle, signifying our bodily praxis, our corporeal energy, coalescing and inhabiting a jerky rhythm when aligned with technology. The poem becomes a critical tool to recast the technocratic power relations at work; language is rioting, or in crisis, just as the body is. The physicality of our bodies, of technology and language, becomes a common dance, inseparable from society, from politics: it pushes us firmly into the post-human, technological age.
Dorothy Lehane is the author of three poetry publications: Umwelt, (Leafe Press, June 2016), Ephemeris, (Nine Arches Press, October, 2014), and Places of Articulation, (dancing girl press, November, 2014) She is the founding editor of Litmus Publishing. Her research explores social, ethical and perceptual questions surrounding and concerning cultural encounters and embodied responses in the practice of disability/illness poetry. She is currently working on a long sequence, Bettbehandlung [Bedrest], examining the historical treatments of sick female subjects. Some of this work can be found in the Journal of Poetics Research, DISCLAIMER Magazine, aglimpseof and Molly Bloom. She has read her work to audiences at Magnetic South Festival, Sounds New Music Festival, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Impaired/Heightened Senses conference, the Science Museum, the Wellcome Trust Gallery, the Barbican, the Roundhouse, and BBC Radio Kent. Dorothy teaches Creative Writing as the University of Kent.