Composing Poetic Systems

A description of how I compose a poem in stages, using an inspirational quotation from Heidegger’s philosophy, a child’s imagination and a photography taken while walking, around the port edge in Dundee.

“Nature becomes a gigantic gasoline station, an energy source for modern technology and industry”[1]

[1] Heidegger, M (1966). Discourse On Thinking. New York: Harper & Row. p50.


Stage one

Thinking about words that represent a place. I had spoken to one of my neighbors who described a conversation with their granddaughter. She said;

“Granddad, I love to watch the princess castle float down the river at night, out of your living-room window.”

From the window, you can see the ‘Rowan Gorilla’, an oil rig located at Dundee’s port near Stannergate road. What words describe  ‘Castles in the Sky’? I begin to write the words with associated meaning and think about the Gaelic translation of Caisteal air an adhar.

“We live in a world where speech is an institution. For all these many common place utterances, we possess within ourselves ready-made meanings. They arouse in us only second order thoughts; these in turn, are translated into other words which demand from us no real effort of expression and will demand from our hearers no demand for comprehension…”[1]

I  decide to write some ready-made meanings, that come to mind.

CASTLE = Crusader, Clash, Haunting, Historic, Highland, Maiden, Fortress, Tales, Tradition, Intrigue, Wild.

SKY= Everywhere, Cloud, Soft, A change of, under a, Thunder, Big, Secrets,

OIL RIG = Operator, Dirty, Offshore, Structures, Source, Resource.

[1] Merleau-Ponty, M (1974). Phenomenology Of Perception. 6th ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD. P328-329.

Stage two

I place the words in alphabetical order and during this process, the words and meanings expand.


CASTLE, Crusader, Clash, Cloud, A change of,




Haunting, Historic, Highland,



OIL RIG, Operator, Offshore,


SKY, soft, Secrets, Structures, Source

Tales tradition, Thunder,

Under a,


Stage three

The words collected are not an internal search from inside my soul but an outside reflection of a world. Engaging in a circular process within a world of meaning.[1] The continuous process moves between my understanding and my experience. Recognising when to stop is important as the process is infinite.


[1] “The “circle” in understanding belongs to the structure of meaning, and the latter phenomenon is rooted in the existential constitution of Dasein—that is, in the understanding which interprets. An entity for which, as Being-in-the-world, its Being is itself an issue, has, ontologically, a circular structure.” Heidegger, M (1962). Being and Time. 5th ed. New York: Harper & Row. P.195.

Stage four

Amazed by the infinite possibilities of language, I remember reading a Lefebvre’s text.

“Could the infinite and finite be mere illusions, the one just as much as the other, and each as it were, the illusion of the other? They are mirages, reflections or refractions…”[1]

Is it illogical to create the illusion of movement in time and space in a text? When the creation of infinite and finite of time and space are an illusion itself.

To create the illusion of movement, I think about the rhythms of my body.

“We know that a rhythm is slow or fast in relation to other rhythms.”[2]

To create a rhythm of repetition as a mechanical overtone, I listen to my footsteps and I breathe. Creating logical systems of 1, 2, 3, breathe, 1, 2, 3, breathe, 1, 2, 3, breathe.

The structure of the text is changed using repetition, the first word in line three, is repeated in line four and again in line six and seven. This creates a change in direction and I create change in repetition.

Above, ……………………..

in-between, ………………


Below, ………………………

in-between, ……………….

above, ………………………..

Above, ……………………..

in-between, ……………….

below, ………………………

[1] Lefebvre, H (1991). The Production of Space. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, Inc. P181.

[2] Lefebvre, H. (2007). Rhythmanalysis: A Pervisionary Portrait. In: Elden, S. and Moore, G. Rhythmanalysis: Space, time and everyday life. 5th ed. King’s Lynn: Biddles LTD. P10

Stage five

I move between words belonging to nature and industry using Heidegger’s quotation, the image and word association, to guide my thinking.


Stage six

The poem is a representation of a place using words with associated and ready-made meanings. Different processes are used to discover words, expand context and meaning. Recognising when to stop is important, as the process has the illusion of being infinite. The impression of movement is inspired by rhythm and repetition. Presenting a space for difference using words associated with nature and industry.

The In-between Castle

Above, dull maiden clouds linger,

in-between, an offshore fortress stands,

below, veils a filthy exchange.

Below, conflicting in mother's pain,

in-between, harsh technology demands,

above, fort operator of the harr.

Above, supply till it dries,

in-between, binds murk to certain land,

below, bleed the earth for gain.