- A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (I’ve never really read this straight through, but this was cheap, and I liked the idea of having an old battered copy–it’s the eighteenth printing: I wonder how old this actual copy is)
- The Annotated Milton: Complete English Poems (my thesis adviser is big on Milton, and I’ve been meaning to get into Milton as well, given how important a figure he is; I just hope there aren’t too many other errors in this one, especially one as big as “When I consider how my life is spent…” OH MAN)
- The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers (not just the first novel I bought in ages but also the first one I read and finished in around that time: my self-justification, apart from how it’s a cracking good story, was that I was doing research for my thesis since Keats, Byron and the Shelleys are in it)
- Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works (yes, at last I’ve bought this! I’ve mentioned Hopkins several times here, so I just want to link to commentaries on “The Windhover”: Mlinko’s study guide, pieces by Kwame Dawes and Carol Rumens, and this attempt at memorizing it)
- Shoulder Season by Ange Mlinko (reviews of the collection, poems by Mlinko, a critical essay on language acquisition, a conversation between her and Michael Robbins)
In some ways, especially with the first two, I feel like my October purchases have to do with poets I should have studied in school but didn’t.
When I hit Google with a search string from the tweets that appear on my timeline, it leads me to wonderful wonderful things. To wit:
Read Paul Celan’s entire poem here.
From the W.S. Merwin interview conducted here.
Palmer’s poem is at the bottom of this blog entry and Jorie Graham talks about Palmer and poetry in general here.
With thanks and apologies to Ander Monson, who tweeted:
But this is just well worth preserving from the ongoing flux that is the Twitter feed, and it also gives me an excuse to use the awesome Twitter Blackbird Pie:
The great task to which Mallarmé dedicated himself, right up to his death, is the one that dominates us now; in its stammerings, it embraces all our current efforts to confine the fragmented being of language once more within a perhaps impossible unity. Mallarmé’s project — that of enclosing all possible discourse within the fragile density of the word, within that slim, material black line traced by ink upon paper — is fundamentally a reply to the question imposed upon philosophy by Nietzsche. For Nietzsche, it was not a matter of knowing what good and evil were in themselves, but of who was being designated, or rather who was speaking when one said Agathos to designate oneself and Deilos to designate others. For it is there, in the holder of discourse and, more profoundly still, in the possessor of the word, that language is gathered together in its entirety. To the Nietzschean question: ‘Who is speaking?’, Mallarmé replies — and constantly reverts to that reply — by saying that what is speaking is, in its solitude, its fragile vibration, in its nothingness, the word itself — not the meaning of the word, but its enigmatic and precarious being. Whereas Nietzsche maintained his questioning as to who is speaking right up to the end, though forced, in the last resort, to irrupt into that questioning himself and to base it upon himself as the speaking and questioning subject: Ecce homo, Mallarmé was constantly effacing himself from his own language, to the point of not wishing to figure in it except as an executant in a pure ceremony of the Book in which the discourse would compose itself. It is quite possible that all those questions now confronting our curiosity (What is language? What is a sign? What is unspoken in the world, in our gestures, in the whole enigmatic heraldry of our behaviour, our dreams, our sicknesses — does all that speak, and if so in what language and in obedience to what grammar? Is everything significant, and, if not, what is, and for whom, and in accordance with what rules? What relation is there between language and being, and is it really to being that language is always addressed — at least, language that speaks truly? What, then, is this language that says nothing, is never silent, and is called ‘literature’?) — it is quite possible that all these questions are presented today in the distance that was never crossed between Nietzsche’s question and Mallarme’s reply.
from Section 1 (“The Return Of Language”) of Chapter 9 (“Man And His Doubles”) of The Order Of Things by Michel Foucault (pp 332-333)
I hate to simply copy-and-paste what has been posted here, but it’s been around three years, and I figure I’ll focus more on poet Laura Riding than on choreographer Len Lye. I’ve been interested in Riding, since I read these interviews with Lisa Samuels, so seeing these portions from the 1935 essay “Movement as Language,” er, moved me. Now I want to read the entire thing:
Movement is the result of a feeling in one thing of strong difference from other things. Movement is always one thing moving away from other things – not toward. And the result of movement is to be distinct from other things : the result of movement is form. The history of any definite form is the movement of which the form is the result. When we look at something and see the particular shape of it we are only looking at its after-life. Its real life is the movement by which it got to be that shape. The danger of thinking of physical things in terms of form rather than of movement is that a shape can easily seem more harmonious, more sympathetic with other shapes than its historical individuality justifies : there is a literary temptation to give it too much meaning, to read truth-signs where there are only life-signs. But if we think of physical things in terms of movement we avoid the confusion of “life” with “truth”. Movement is strickly the language of life. It expresses nothing but the initial, living connotations of life. It is earliest language.
From “People Are Stranger: Listening To Graham Foust” by David B. Olsen:
If there are to be strangers at all, we cannot know them — but we also cannot ignore them. The stranger simply must be there, and we must see or sense him, there, with us, lingering at the far margins of familiarity. There are no strangers in isolation. Rather, the encounter with the stranger — this moment of the register — is also an affirmation of our own strangeness.
From “A Conversation With Robert Fernandez” at/with THERMOS:
Lyric language might as convincingly be described (and accessed) as a kind of haunted singing which makes that which is most familiar to us, language, strange, and in so doing reveals the human being’s essential strangeness—reveals that one is constituted by difference and always at home in otherness.
(The title of this blog entry refers to a song I liked a lot in the ’80s.)
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.)
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.