Ann Lauterbach on John Ashbery’s “Litany”

 

I have come to believe, or think, or understand, that when someone dies, the most acute sense of loss is that of his or her voice. (For a while, one can “hear” a person’s voice in one’s inner ear, but slowly that fades.) This is odd, since sound is of course immaterial; one would think that the body would be the most felt absence. But sound is a distinctive marker of living presence more than any material object can possibly be; sound and lived time are indissoluble: they are, so to speak, part of the continuity of a landscape rather than the singularity of a portrait. Sound is embedded in spatial context.

via From Conjunctions:49, Ann Lauterbach on John Ashbery’s As We Know.

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a lonely figure grappling with the difficulties of language, trapped in a place where the real world has been replaced by a world of language, which is for the writer as tangible as that that has been lost.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