March 28, 2012 § 9 Comments

Some origins of graft from the Chambers Dictionary:

graphein, to write (Greek)

gröft, to dig (Old Norse)

graphein is linked to graphieon, a style (or stylus)

I’m wondering how we might think about poetry as graft?


§ 9 Responses to Graft

  • I think there’s often a concealed pun behind poems: perhaps you’ve unearthed [ho, ho] the one behind Heaney’s Digging?

  • Rob Hindle says:

    Yes – in fact the post was originally a slightly rambling one, incorporating Heaney, fruit trees, form and flavour. Inevitably, the metaphor collapsed!

  • Fruit trees as in grafting on root-stock, I take it. Jam-packed with associations…

    • Rob Hindle says:

      Indeed – the idea of selecting root and fruit, to control form and variety seemed to me to have some sort of resonance for poetry.

      • Like it. It also fits with something I’ve been chewing on recently: the paradox behind Modernist writers being so strongly based on historic precursors (Pound and Daniel, Dante and Li Po etc; Joyce and Homer) whilst trying (and succeeding) to ‘make it new’. It makes sense if you see it as choosing the most robust and proven root-stock, whilst grafting on a modernity that would mean it yield very different fruit…

  • Rob Hindle says:

    Or putting new wines in old bottles, as Angela Carter had it.

  • fayay says:

    Sorry to lower the tone, but to heroin addicts ‘graft’ means doing what you do to generate funds for a fix – ie. shoplifting, prostitution, some sort of quick extortion. Different timescale to writing poetry, I’m sure Sam Willetts would agree, though surely they do share the element of making something where there was nothing. Also, to heroin users ‘digging’ means injecting, though probably neither of these definitions were in use when Heaney wrote Death of a Naturalist

  • Rob Hindle says:

    I think the tone isn’t in much danger, Fay… In fact, this adds greatly to the pot. I’m pretty sure that ‘croft’ is also derived from ‘graft’ – furthering the notion of digging out a living (as indeed a vein) from sparse, or ruined, earth.

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