Region and Poetry, Part 3; or, Questions of Writing on Place

I recently spent five weeks in Ireland, the majority of the time in Cork City.  I did write some while there (as can be seen in previous posts shared), but I write of it mostly now that I am gone.

After exiting Gougane Barra, I spoke with a peer.  I said that I tend to avoid writing of a place while I am in it, as I prefer to write “with the lens of nostalgia.”  I wrote of Gougane Barra once I returned to my room in Cork City.

A part of avoiding writing while within the place is not just to have access to nostalgia, but also to actually be in the place.  I admit I don’t shy from taking many photos, so I’m already incorporating that lens and what spacing/othering it may create between myself and the place.  To then also write may distance me further.

Of course, now I need to acknowledge the implied paradigm/paradox/question at work here: in writing of something, are you distancing yourself from that something, or are you (attempting) pulling it toward yourself?  By writing of a place (or anything/anyone), are you creating an objectification or are you expressing a connection?  Or, perhaps a mix of both: in order to confess connection, the connection must be made tangible; thus, objectified?

Consider John M. Synge’s The Aran Islands, a historic example of writing of place, of people (particularly in an attempt to establish/explore Irish identity): while he attempts to give objective observations of life on the Aran Islands, he is a variable at work in the observations, as of course his presence and behavior affects those he observes.  (These issues open out to the complexities of conducting scientific research: is observation itself a variable in the system—is it a variable that seeps into “the control,” even?)

The concern with distancing also necessitates questions: how much closeness with a place (or anything/anyone) is possible?  Is closeness or distancing themselves even possible?  Even if we feel closeness or distancing, might, metaphysically, we actually just be static relations (is how “close” or “far” we each are already predetermined, perhaps unchangeable, or fluctuating only depending on the intersection of many variables [the latter feels like a more romantic notion])?

None of these are new questions, I’m sure, and we might not attain answers, but I think these are important questions to ask myself whenever I write of place (or anything/anyone)—whenever I write of something empirically-inspired.  (If I keep the writing in the context of being a part of my empirical realities, perhaps that can be the loophole to save me from the judgment of “Realism” and/or the “Metaphysical Truth” [assuming it exists].)