Found Particles

A few days ago, I updated my Facebook and Twitter accounts with two lines from W.S. Graham that were cited in the essay I linked to in my last entry (yes, sorry, but I’m the type to do stuff like that!):

Somewhere our belonging particles
Believe in us. If we could only find them.

Not only did those two lines resonate with me, I also liked how it supposedly both opens and closes “Implements in Their Places,” the title poem of his final book. (I say “supposedly” only because I haven’t read it in its entirety, though what excerpts there are online have been tantalizing, to say the least.)

Atkinson’s context for those lines also had to do with their appeal to me, when she talks of Graham’s late work as a demonstration of

the torque of writing poetry; the exponentially maddening, tantalising relationship between the desire to wield language, and what really only ever amounts to a more finely articulated appreciation of its fundamental unwieldiness.

Now, in another essay on Graham called “Elegy For The World,” this time about loss as “a significant feature” in his work, I find those two lines cited in terms of the recurring appearance in his later work of

a lonely figure grappling with the difficulties of language, trapped in a place where the real world has been replaced by a world of language, which is for the writer as tangible as that that has been lost.

I feel something is being said here about the recent work I have been doing, which seems also attuned to what has been described as the “expressive experimentalism” of Brenda Hillman.

(Here, though, I find a certain oddity at work, in terms of what we might call a spiritual sensibility in the poetics. Like Jane Hirshfield‘s Buddhism, I don’t think Hillman’s Gnosticism speaks to me. And yet, I hear a voice there. I’m not sure about Graham’s spiritual beliefs, but there too seems something lurking there as well.)

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All Roads Lead to Jane Hirshfield

(This has happened before, here and elsewhere.)

  1. A few weeks ago, I bought a copy of the 2007 Best American Poetry edited by Heather McHugh (TOC). Recognizing the reference to Kant, I read my first Jane Hirshfield poem: “Critique of Pure Reason.” (Scroll down to read it here.) I remember being especially taken with the following: “Perimeter is not meaning, but it changes meaning, / as wit increases distance and compassion erodes it.
  2. A few days ago, a friend of mine updated his Facebook status with the final five lines from “A Blessing for Wedding”: “Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly / Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears / Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes / Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you / Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days
  3. Last Tuesday, my teacher mentioned, in passing, Hirshfield’s book of poetics essays as being very good. It was my first time to know that Hirshfield employs a Zen Buddhist approach to much of her work, although “nine gates” brought to MY mind something more, well, diabolical. I’m really not very Zen.
  4. The same Hirshfield book, by the way, also appears on the syllabus of a former teacher of mine, who is currently teaching a course on “Myth and Literature.” I initially considered signing up for that course this semester, but ultimately chose a Fiction Workshop instead.
  5. Also on Tuesday, Poetry Daily chose Hirshfield’s “The Egg Had Frozen, An Accident. I Thought Of My Life.” It didn’t impress me as much as the previously-mentioned poems I read, but it was interesting given how the teacher I mentioned in number 3 is a poet who privileges image as a key poetic device. This poem by Hirshfield is certainly a textbook example of imagery and metaphor. (That textbook quality may be what leaves me cold though.)
  6. Although I found a copy of “A Blessing for Wedding” at the Poetry Foundation’s site, I only realized yesterday that the December 2010 issue of Poetry contains two new poems by her, both very good: “Sonoma Fire” and “Sentencings”

Like I said, I’m not very Zen in my poetry, or any other aspect of my life, but I’m now fascinated. Drawn towards Hirshfield by synchronicity and/or serendipity–I’m not sure which.