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Those who understand what went on inside a tunnel in Switzerland last Wednesday have been struggling to explain it to the rest of us. The picture above is of what physicists believe the thing they are searching for might behave like if it does in fact exist.
While the world might think it doesn’t need poetry, it sure needs metaphor. The trouble is words get tiring and boring.


The same day all this was going on, I went to hear Iannis Xenakis’s “Pleiades”, a composition for six percussionists which Xenakis describes as ‘clouds, nebulas and galaxies of the fragmented dust of beats’. This music operates the way Wallace Stevens said poetry should - on the nerves. (It’s not particularly radical but it certainly made people nervous. Some booed and dozens walked out.) It didn’t offer facts or prompt feelings. It just argued, beautifully, with the desire for pattern, connection and constellation.
You can hear “Pleiades” here on the BBC’s Listen Again service up until Wednesday (this segment begins with the end of Kathleen Jamie’s interval talk on whalebones).

Originally Published: September 14th, 2008

Lavinia Greenlaw has published three books of poems, most recently Minsk. Her two novels are Mary George of Allnorthover and An Irresponsible Age and she has also published a memoir, The Importance of Music to Girls. Her work for BBC radio includes programs about the Arctic, the Baltic, the solstices...