Since we’re probably the only two people reading this blog I thought I’d address you directly!
I was wondering about the phenomenology of places and walking. What I think I mean by phenomenology is the experience of a place or object seen when walking (experience, not concrete reality), and specifically in relation to another similar place or object. For example - when you pass a building or a wood that reminds you of another building or wood and somehow the two become fused together into one atmosphere.
This realisation may occur gradually but it could also be as sudden as seeing an old shop front from a bus window and in it the sweet shop from your childhood.
The Avenida Cinqo de Mayo in Buenos Aires is tied together in my mind somehow with Holborn’s Kingsway. Is it just a similarity of architecture that makes me think this?
I have read somewhere - Twitter or Facebook I think - a light dismissal of poetry that goes something like “Yes poets, we get it: some things are like other things.” But I have come to think that when comparing two ‘things’ you are actually talking about three ‘things’. In my Kingsway/Cinqo de Mayo example you then have:
- Avenida de Cinqo de Mayo
- Kingsway + Avenida de Cinqo de Mayo
Since the poetic experience is exactly that: ‘An experience’, then really we are not linking two things when we reach for the word ‘like’ but rather the ‘experience of the things’.
The poem is not a monument to the moment but a monument to the experience of the moment.
I want to use poem in its most broadest sense. So the feeling I get walking down Kingsway is the meeting point of two rivers of experience. But is it a monument? Yes. But unlike a written poem or work of art it is still vibrating with change because, for now, it is a monument that I continue to live through and build upon.
The monument is a very real third place: there is no Kingsway, there is no Av. Cinqo de Mayo, but there is a kingsway-cinqo-de-mayo.
Sometimes 3rd places will occur even when it’s not clear to us what’s being tied together with the word ‘like’.
Walking on Pineapple street in Brooklyn one evening I saw a piano near a window and felt the vibrations of a 3rd place.
The same feeling has struck me standing in front of Pissarro’s ‘Louvre Under Snow’ at the National gallery.
For both of these examples (and following my previous formula) I could only write them down as:
- A piano on Pineapple street
- A piano on Pineapple street + ???
I have a memory of walking beside a wood of chestnut trees on a bright cold morning but I don’t know now whether the wood or the walk actually existed. Did I dream them or were they real? Either way, the image appears at random moments when what I experience seems to channel or marry to the atmosphere of the chestnut trees to create the sensation of a 3rd place.
Writing in ‘Poetry’ magazine in November 2017, the writer Matthew Bevis notes:
“Poetry is, among other things, a reminder that bewilderment may be a bequest.”
So maybe the 3rd place needs no further explanation than that it exists. It is handed to us without instructions.
Anyway, these are my thoughts. I need coffee - I hope you’re having a great weekend!