A field has many meanings: a piece of ground, a territory, an area of observation, an extended surface. Poetry has its origin in the fields. In William Langland’s Piers Plowman, the world is represented as a ‘fair field full of folk’, while the term ‘verse’ derives from the Latin versus, a line or row, which itself comes from vertere, meaning to turn from one line to another in the sense of ploughing a field. As John Berger writes:
The repeated lines of words and music are like paths. These paths are circular and the rings they make are linked together like those of a chain. You walk among these paths and are led by them in circles which lead from one to the other, further and further away. The field upon which you walk and upon which the chain is laid is the song. (Berger 2009, p. 199)
How can a song and a field be the same? What else have fields meant for writers and readers? What might a critical poetics learn from the fieldwork of other disciplines, such as anthropology? What use has a poet for field-notes?
John Berger, ‘Field,’ About Looking (London: Bloomsbury, 2009), pp. 199-20.