Everything I do, I do because I know I am dying. My most favorites of things are optical illusions. We don’t become senile or “lose our minds,” it’s just that as we get older, we have more to think of in less time-we must think of more in a compressed amount of time. I think I know now what you’ve tried to teach me, that poetry is an instant, an instant in which transcendence is achieved, where a miracle occurs and all of one’s knowledge, experience, memories etc. are obliterated into awe. Is anything I say real? And by real, I mean sincere–or is everything an attempt to have love? I know now why the line breaks: it is because something dies, and elsewhere, is born again
via Jenny Boully / The Body (emphasis mine)
I wasn’t so familiar with W.S. Graham’s work when I first came across “The Uses of Difficulty, Written in the Margins of W.S. Graham,” though I was already, given certain interests, looking forward to reading the essay. Three lines into the excerpt from “Approaches to How They Behave” however, I found myself entranced by the themes of presence (speaking) and absence (death) as well as Graham’s lineation and his use of “exact” as both adjective and verb (the latter being a device I’ve been using more and more in my own work lately).
So I went on Google, and one of the first items to turn up was this old blog entry discussing the translation issues raised in the Paul Celan article from which I just quoted. It’s a discussion that takes its its blog entry title and much of its content from Graham. Oh, apophenia, I love you.* (And from there I came across this wonderful bit from George Steiner: “Uncertainty of meaning is incipient poetry.”)
“Approaches to How They Behave” is apparently a long poem, so only excerpts are available online. This one has six sections, and the same blogger has put up Graham’s “Penzance/London” and “The Gobbled Child.” Poetry Nation has “What Is The Language Using Us For?” in what seems to be its entirety, as well as “Imagine a forest” and “The Secret Name.” I need more time with these works–the essay on difficulty suggests an hour–but from what I’ve read so far, I feel a certain affinity for the shapes in Graham’s work, the shapes of his thought and the shapes of his verse.
More to follow.