I used the term last night in an email, to describe some of the ways in which my writing techniques are going, and foolishly thought I might have invented it. Oh, no! Many others have been there before me. Valerie Laws painted words on the backs of sheep back in 2003, and used the random aggregations of the flock over time to produce quantum haiku. I’ve discovered the term used back in 2000, and I suspect it may go a lot further back. For those with a predeliction for historical research, I won’t stand in your way. (My guess is that Eddie Morgan probably used the term in the 1960s).
But what did I mean? I suppose I meant that I am trying to change the way I write, to include multiple perspectives in lines (but not to signpost them), to shuffle time (actually, I think I’ve often done that), to include words and images which don’t form part of a linear narrative, and to reduce the numbers of causal links in my work. To put it baldly: I’m boring myself writing ordinary poems, and I want to experiment. I’m fed up writing the kind of poems that start
This is the first line, and
here I describe something I’ve seen, and
then I say what I thought about it, and
how I felt, and then
I saw something else, and
it made a connection with the first thing, and
……… , and
The End, sometimes with a wee twist in the tail.
So, let me digress into quantum physics briefly and non-mathematically:
reality is quantized, that is, it comes in discrete packages, or ‘quanta’;
we can know the momentum of a particle, or its position, but not both simultaneously (uncertainty principle)
particles also possess the characteristics of waves (wave-particle duality)
Let’s see how far we can relate this to poetry, before it becomes absurd – as I’m sure it will, much like Humph’s helpful definitions of ‘One Song to the Tune of Another’.
If words, images, phrases etc are the quanta of poetry, then their flow and rhythm become the wave of the poem. So far, so good. But there is scope for building the wave through quanta of different energies (momentum), and there needn’t be a linear relationship between image 1 and image 2. We can use apparently unrelated terms to give a line or a stanza meaning; at the quantum level they are ‘entangled’. There are a lot of today’s poets who do this very successfully, but I’m not naming names.
And the multiple internal perpectives and time-shifts I’m experimenting with reflect uncertainties of personality and viewpoint, and the branching nature of probability. As in the quantum world, sooner or later the wave-function (Ψ) collapses, and the poem is done. And I’m not sure I believe any of this.