James Aitchison

Raiding the Inarticulate

for Lesley Duncan

‘And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate’.
(T. S. Eliot, ‘East Coker V’, Four Quartets)

The inarticulate was a neural broth
simmering in African Eve’s small skull
before her brain had learned to say, ‘Hello’.

Without the simmering
Eve’s children might never have chanced on speech.
And without words
the species would be unborn or else extinct.

Speech is child’s play;
an alphabet is the end of infancy.

I’m late. My word-hoard lessens day by day
but it still has billions of neurons, mute –

their silence shelters them from poetry −
until a microflash
fires contingent circuits in my brain.

Each venture is my first:
I look beyond my printed boundary
for a domain that doesn’t yet exist.

The object of the search
is what I, alone – and you, alone – create:
new lines to map the inarticulate.

James Aitchison was born in Stirlingshire in 1938,
and was educated at Glasgow and Strathclyde uni-
versities. In the 1960s he was a publicity copy-writer
with The Scotsman Publications in Edinburgh, after
which he held a series of minor posts in Scottish uni-
versities. In separate ten-year stints he reviewed
poetry for The Scotsman in Edinburgh and The Herald
in Glasgow.
He has published seven collections of poems, notably,
Foraging: New & Selected Poems (Worple Press
(2009) and The Gates of Light (Mica Press 2016).
His critical biography, The Golden Harvester:
The Vision of Edwin Muir
 was published by Aberdeen
University Press; his major analytical and expositional
study, New Guide to Poetry and Poetics was published
by Rodopi (Amsterdam) in their series, Consciousness
and Literature
James Aitchison retired to Gloucestershire; in 2007
he returned to Stirlingshire, where he now lives with his
wife, Norma.