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Poem of the week: Never Entered Mind by Tom Raworth

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This avant-garde poem fizzes with a splintering energy that keeps the reader asking questions and constructing possible meanings

There are no daffodils or pagans dancing in this week's poem, by Tom Raworth, but it bursts on the senses with a spring-like ferocity, closer to Stravinsky than Wordsworth. "Bubble" in line three is suggestive. Language here becomes a series of word-bubbles: some connect, some don't, but perhaps it doesn't matter. This is poetry as linguistic Big Bang, where word-forms are still being born, and are not yet oppressed by the need to bond in logical communities. Of course, this is illusory: the words are laden with histories, some of which coagulate (to steal an idea from the last line). But even as old denotations are recalled, the signifiers assert unusual independence. The title, Never Entered Mind, might be a clue.

So does the poem bypass the organisation of meaning? Not at all. It begins with a sentence, perfectly structured if surreal, and a syntactical framework is sustained throughout. Swiftly, in the second line, comes "introspection", a noun which deliberately introduces the idea of an entered mind. On an even cursory inspection, the poem conveys a minute orderliness of structure: it's arranged in couplets, usually trimeters, with three words per line until the last line, and an intriguing pattern of first-letters, predominantly F, M, A and G, M, I. Sometimes the ground seems all bubbling "fermentation" and sometimes it's solid, the couplets behaving like the reassuringly neat pathways they're not. Raworth might be playing a series of jokes on the reader. His poem is no more pinned down than a symmetrically-patterned rug laid out on a seethe of bubbles. But it keeps the mind afloat.

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