Dream Work – an extract from Adam Wyeth’s article in The Irish Times , ‘Writing is often like sneaking up on myself when I’m not looking’
“While writing about:blank I became increasingly interested in dreams. I was struck by the similarity between dreams and literature. Mythological stories, like our dreams, evoke images that bridge the gap between the conscious and unconscious.
“As an image arose or recurred in the writing I would start to think about its symbolism as one might consider it with a dream. It’s only a matter of time before a cat in the night under a moon starts to take on an archetypal presence in a story or poem.
“For instance, the opening of Part 1 concerns itself with a missing cat, which alongside other facets, suggested aspects of the rejected feminine. This type of reading helped to define a shape for the work and started to reveal aspects of the inner life as well. At the same time I was cautious not to try and solve or resolve anything too readily.”
Adam Wyeth commenting on the writing of about:blank can be found below.
LAUNCH INTRODUCTION SPEECH by poet JESSICA TRAYNOR
Museum of Literature Ireland, Dublin – 13 October 2021
this is what happens
when we look out of the window
all of the time
now in Dublin
These lines form the last stanza in one of the fractured, fragmented poems in Adam Wyeth’s about:blank. They caught my attention on a first read and have wormed their way into my brain since then.
about:blank is a piece of writing that both defies categorization and pays homage to the great literary innovators of the 20th and early-21st century. It’s chimera-like, engaging in a process of making and remaking, of peeling away and collaging different viewpoints, times and experiences. It’s experience without ego, with the figure of the writer guiding these drifting spheres as they pass each other in a Dublin both strange and familiar.
Dublin is a major character in about:blank. Cityscapes seem to exert a strange pull on writers. These Flâneurs – these Joyces and Calvinos – wander the streets, it seems, in order to see the city through the eyes of passersby. And what they find on their travels reconfigures our idea of the living city, raising questions about how we constitute a single city out of so many lives and perspectives, constantly jostling against each other. What happens when the act of looking occurs? How does this act effect the thing seen? And, to quote another of the poetic fragments:
Who is the one
beyond the city
beyond the man
and the woman
divided by the city?
In the Dublin of Adam Wyeth’s imagination, those seen and unseen are acted upon by forces beyond their own understanding. They’re transformed through the very act of being seen, through being imagined. They – like the figure of Claire – both exist, and don’t exist. In some sense of the word, they are blank: ghosts haunting the text. In a quote from Pinter’s No Man’s Land that prefaces the collection, however, the idea of the dead being ‘blank’ is dismissed as nonsense. In about:blank it becomes clear that blankness is not synonymous with emptiness. Rather, it’s the conceptual beginning, the space in which Schrodinger’s cat can be both alive and dead.
about:blank proposes that this space is endlessly fertile; a space in which the imagination can make entire universes. But the current that flows throughout, shaping the energies that make us is love; the love inherent in the potential of a book resting unread on a shelf, in the celebrations of the Celtic calendar, in the practice of yoga, in the works of Rumi, in the writer’s care for his creations.
So what do we see when we gaze through the eyes of the figures which populate about:blank? We see some familiar topographies; canal banks, the seaside at Irishtown, Rathmines Town Hall, the nearby park at Grosvenor Square. We see the inside of a woman’s apartment, we search for a black cat on a dark night. We try our hand at some yoga. We worry about the roses and the railings. We try (and fail) to become poets, we try (and fail) to understand the butterfly effect of a glance shared between a woman on a bus, and a man walking by.
And then something strange happens. As we read further we come to realize that we’re not seeing the world through the eyes of these figures at all, but rather, that the world is looking through us. ‘This’, as the poem tells us, ‘is what happens when we look out of the window/ all of the time/ everywhere/ now/ in Dublin.’
Adam Wyeth, like Joyce, is chronicling a day in the life of a city, but the question of which day is not so simple here. It’s both everywhere and Dublin, both all of the time and now. And although the figure of the writer may recede behind the scenes, it’s the generosity of this expansive vision that allows us to become wholly immersed in about:blank, and to emerge, again, changed.
Adam Wyeth is an award-winning and critically acclaimed poet, playwright and essayist with four previous books published with Salmon Poetry. In 2019 he received The Kavanagh Fellowship Award. His debut collection Silent Music (2011) was Highly Commended by the Forward Poetry Prize. In 2013 Salmon published his essays The Hidden World of Poetry: Unravelling Celtic Mythology in Contemporary Irish Poetry, Foreword by Paula Meehan. His second collection The Art of Dying (2016) was an Irish Times Book of the Year. Wyeth’s plays have been performed across Ireland as well as in New York and Berlin. His play This Is What Happened was published by Salmon in 2019. In 2020 he received the Arts Council Ireland Literature Project Award and was selected for the Abbey Theatre Engine Room Development Programme to work on an audio production of about:blank. about:blank premiered at Dublin Theatre Festival 2021, performed by Olwen Fouere, Owen Roe and Paula McGlinchey. In 2021 he was a recipient of the Live Music & Performance Scheme for there will be no silence, a new music and text work, in collaboration with Emmy-nominated composer David Downes, performed by pianist Rolf Hind and cellist Adrian Mantu, with actors Aisling O’Sullivan and Owen Roe, produced by Pauline Ashwood. In 2021 Wyeth was selected for artist residencies at the Heinrich Böll Cottage and the Ámeto Mítico Residency along the Camino de Santiago. Wyeth lives in Dublin where he works as a freelance writer and teaches online creative writing correspondence courses at adamwyeth.com and Fishpublishing.com. He is an Associate Artist of the Civic Theatre, Dublin, and works on ideas and research for the RTÉ Poetry Programme.