Some thoughts on ‘Yes’ by Adrian Mitchell

I’m a words person. I think in words, not images. Even in my head, where no one can hear me, I think in paragraphs.

Words are the tools I use to think, to vent, to admire, to love and to hate.

I collect them. I curate them. I investigate their origins. I have favourite words and words that I would expunge if I could.

But not everything that speaks to me uses words to do it. Music bypasses words and plays my emotions like an instrument. Some views leave me happily speechless. Some art sets me hunting for words that I don’t know yet.

Poetry offers me a bridge between words and the things I don’t have words for. A good poem means more than the sum of its semantic parts.

This is why, when I’m restless, I browse poetry books the way some men stare into a fridge, hoping to find something that sates their hunger.

Tonight, my browsing brought me to Adrian Mitchell’s poem, ‘Yes’ which is all about how the world speaks to us. Here it is.

This is a fun poem. How could a poem that includes:

“The kangaroo says: Trampoline
The giraffe says: Tree”

not be fun? And yet the same verse ends:

“A bus says: Us.
While a car says: Me.”

which reveals something less playful.

To me, this poem is more than an Edward Lear kind of escape into nonsense. The image it creates for me is of a bat mapping its world by bouncing sonar off its surroundings and listening for the echo. Adrian Mitchell lets words off their leashes or captures them from the wild by asking what the things around him are saying.

Except, I think what he’s hearing, is not the voice of his environment but an echo of himself. For me, a kangaroo does not say Trampoline but a bus does say Us. What we see is the same. What we hear may be different because we only hear our response to the stimuli.

It seems to me that this poem shows what happens when we let our words run wild, releasing them from the leashes of logic and the constraints of grammar so that we can say things to ourselves that we may not have any other way of hearing.

I think the title, ‘Yes’ shows an optimistic openness to what life has to offer. Adrian Mitchell hears the world say No and Maybe and Take and I’m afraid but when he puts a title on the echo map he’s drawn, he writes ‘Yes.’ To me it reads like an affirmation rather than a certainty, Like hope rather than truth. But then, if I wrote a poem like this one, my title would probably end up being ‘Maybe‘.

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