Dove descending interior old Augustus Lutheran Church Sanctuary, founded by Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, c. 1743 Providence (Trappe) PA, 18 Sept 2012.

15 November 2012

An Explanation of Poems. The Wheel. Orders of Speech

Fall, 2007. There is no better preparation to believe a poem a higher order of speech than to have no idea about it. A series of analogies presents itself, but always ends with, forget about poems, what do you know about your yourself? Inventions, myths or elephants don't answer it.

What do I know of anything in itself? Back to poems. I don't know what they are. But I think I know what paragraphs are, and writing that is fictional, made up, allusive to no particular purpose. That doesn't seem too hard. That sounds like everyday life. A poem must be a higher order than that, coherent, but in ways too subtle to grasp, or its opposite, a poem must be the simplest thing, so simple nothing else can be said of it except what it says of itself. And everything (or is this nothing?), in between these is not a poem.

Lies preoccupied Sidney in his Defense of Poetry, preoccupy idealism and positivism, but not science as it wants to believe in itself. Empiricism is a notion. Experience is a subject. But what is a rock? What is the sky the mantra of little Lucy, "rolled round in earth's diurnal course, with rocks and stones and trees." Could you say that differently than it is already said? So it is a poem. The category of poems confined only to utterances like this is not going to be many. "Little lamb, who made thee?" "I heard a fly buzz when I died." "in Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid." or "The woods are lovely, dark and deep." "I struck the board and cried, away, I will no more." Coherence is like a thing too big to see the small and the large, narrow and the great, poor beings in between, "who shall deliver us from this body of sin and death?"

So, to continue this series of deceptions, I write "essay-poems" in recognition that there is a story, or a point, a proof, a rhetoric, but then, to find another way, to make poems that couldn't or wouldn't be able to be turned to prose, maybe sometimes prose becomes poem, written in paragraphs first, but later breaks out, which we call ineffable, turned into some outer form or other that reveals inner form.

Sonnet, quatrain, couplet in Frost and Yeats, in itself first formless thought but shaped like a verbal clay becomes a form, except thought as clay, as shape, as incarnation is hard to grasp, like asking how does the spirit of a man become the man? You see it in the old man and in the tree, the cracked skin, the stout limb. How does a sapling get to that? Ask that question to track this, how does the thought that circles in a mind or heart become a "rag and bone shop," but that one is realized. The ones that interest us are still unsaid, circulating beneath the surface of lives and minds that drive us to do what we do what we don't even know when we think we are doing something else and for different reasons too. It is not pretty to admit.

In some state of sleep I sometimes wake. Not a new notion, but as an analogy of the formless thought that wants to be a poem, what do I have to do to get it? Work hard harder or have the faith to work at all, but that doesn't explain how the thing changes of its own accord and becomes what it is without me, or rather with me, but not all the way. I mean I want to say it, but I do not know its shape, and saying is always and only shaping. So  clay is thought and I am a wheel, but not really the potter. Something more is shaping the thing that is coming out a poem. But why restrict it to poems, for any shaping of a thought, which goes without saying must be worthy, any true shaping of a thought in language, whether poem or whatever, is, well that's the problem, what do you call it if it includes all such utterance, constructions of language in written form? That's why so many great beginnings were made simply by declaration of the name. "Call me Ishmael." If we could name the thing we seek we could begin, awake.

So let the potter show the shape of thought. The analogy is imperfect, impoetic. The literal wheel is made of stone and metal, but I am flesh capable of movement, choice. But hold the analogy. As I try to shape the thought I think I know the potter's hands on the centrifugality, the speed of rotation I am whirling that causes it to happen. I feel these impalpable hands, accidents, contradictions.

Two days ago I wrote an inspired prose. Great stuff I thought, but I'll never know, for after hours and hours of lightning phrase, just the kind of thing that comes out the opposite upon reflection, the pages didn't save. I worked again all day to recover it by rewriting, but could not get the fire, got something else. Today I am writing this which could not have otherwise happened. Consider that maybe this is the only way the potter can get the wheel to produce from the clay what is wanted. Follow the analogy. I'm saying that the reverses, contradictions, failures, may be more successful than the successes if we knew. Maybe later we will.

In this way the only poems that seem able to speak are a visual form made palpable, the shape of a head, a tree, a bottle, stems of flowers, a man pointing. These are not their internal shape, of which there is none. Language does not describe the internal shape that flies out of a world without shape and time. Here we want to live in pure praise, which is what poetry is for and can do, but always beyond, which if somehow reached is not exactly what I meant, even sparing the bones of epigrams washed ashore. This is not an aesthetic of modern or postmodern, the Elizabethans were my models and came pared down to this.

An Explanation of Prose and New Writing

Does it come out clearer if we regard the unimportant thing, the prose itself, for anybody can write prose and does so every day for every reason. But in the moment, I want a double edged sword, like a palimpsest, a writing over writing that occurred in literal form in manuscripts where parchment was in such short supply it could be, bleached or not, used again merely by overwriting in a different ink. This "new writing," maybe only lists of things, could be over the top of important ancient texts and when the lists are removed we have these old texts perhaps for the first time.

I want to write on top of these old texts, precepts, maxims, resonant with the past. Then you can scrape it off and see what's underneath. Such classicism, to tell, retell the telling of a thing repeats again and again over centuries. The permutations, transmutations, transmissions over time are interesting in themselves, told, retold and retold, accreting and growing all the time, Aeschylus, Grimm, the Mabinogian, but changed from their first likeness.

Sometimes I don't know the tale I'm retelling until much later. Consumed with a technique or speaker I might want mules to talk. I have gotten up in the middle of the night to read Kafka's "A Report to an Academy," the ape who becomes a man, most poignant, "The Burrow" where the animal speaks of itself so that all points it can be considered a man, in the third person, or "Investigations of a a Dog," or Josephine the mouse singer. Swift retells some version of a myth about humanity without exactly referring to it. The myth underlies and surrounds his giants. And if Swift the same in a more ethereal sense Blake's fairies and giant forms.

It is all to hide, which means reveal the true nature of the thing either too big or too close to direct approach, the thing hidden meaning ourselves. What does it take against all the forces of commerce to conclude smoking dangerous? If we cannot see smoke and feel heat we will not see a more degenerate consciousness. We want to show the beast for what it is while people say, what are you talking about? If one escaped the shadows and somehow got to light and came back, would they be believed? People think Kafka and Swift are writing fiction, but it is the revelation of the human being. This is not psychology.

I want to ride these torrents, stay afloat and wrestle parables and allegories from the hymn of being, to retell the telling once more, thus paragories.

Postscript

The layerings to lives are archaeological strata that lie unconscious until we name them, but whether nameed or not they still are there. Everything is built on everything else. No act or idea is an integer to itself any more than one coin toss has the same probability as two. There are many tosses that condition our probability. It 's all related and it's all deep down.

Words on a page can create an illusion of being. Illusions, otherwise the world would changed after Hopkins. It is not. So the effect of words is not innoculation, not a drug, but its advantage is that, if long term in emerging, it is more permanent than a drug. But still there is a disconnect between the apprehension of beauty, the rhythm and image of the word, and emotion which easily overcomes it. That in itself tells us who we are, but we do have measures to counter the rapids of anger and the whirlpools, it is the word itself. The word is efficacious as a principle, witness what happens when people learn, read or hear something that changes them. The touch of the word ignites in them a change.

The word is a coat you wear over your inner being, a clothing to nurture and protect you that gives not only warmth, but confidence which you can give it away, transfer by your will to extend it. You've been praying all these years to extend the word? Possible, likely. Do you think there is a word written in earth's center? This exceeds metaphysics. You are thinking of a word as flesh? What if it is true in the absolute and therefore true in the relative sense that your words come back upon you. We have now an inner and an outer word. A written and a spoken word. Please stop.

Reuchlin in the renaissance coined "the wonder-working word, of course we have the unpronouncable word. All those alchemists think they can change the structure of reality by various word manipulations. I do not mean magic. I mean the word you speak, not arcanely in secret, but openly, what you hear in the ear speak from the rooftops.
You can mine this ground and if you mine it you mine yourself. Knowing the strata is like knowing the generations you descend from. If you don't know them and deem yourself a unique version, then, like the modernism which to this extent is puerile, does not recognize it is founded upon the thing it considers out of date, then the individual is just ignorant of his past. It doesn't make him a genius if he doesn't know how in the history of families he came into being. He is not hatched full blown from the head. Grendel's mother slobbering in her cave is still Grendel's mother. You cannot escape it even if you put it to death. Toss the coin again.
In the avant-garde disquisitions many words sleep under logs, words like the goal of the avant was to "discover more apt social and aesthetic forms for a radically new moment." The avant is about to experience the radical new moment. It's going to have a baby. Then it can shut up and let someone else do the talking. All the shibboleths of aesthetic criticisms, compared to those who do as opposed to those who talk about doing, are summed up in this: arrested development, failure to learn how to care for another being and to love without reservation. Self centeredness is the key to being an intellectual. When it is full grown its daughter will be one, not one meaning an intellectual, but one meaning one year old. A little child shall lead them?

2. New Writing

Does it come out clearer if we regard the unimportant thing, the prose itself, for anybody can write prose and does so every day for every reason. But in the moment, I want a two edged sword, like a palimpsest, a writing over writing that occurred in literal form in manuscripts where parchment was in such short supply it could be, bleached or not, used again merely by overwriting in a different ink, written above and below. This "new writing," maybe only lists of things, could be over the top of important ancient texts and when the lists are removed we have these old texts perhaps for the first time.

To write on top of these old texts, precepts, maxims, resonant from their past, scrape it off and see what's just beneath. Sitting in a small circle in a first grade country school the teacher held up pictures which the 12 children were to name. In a conscious memory it is my first spoken word, "Underpass," or underneath. Such classicism, to tell, retell the telling of a thing, repeats again over centuries. The permutations, transmutations, transmissions are interesting in themselves, told, retold, accreting and growing all the time, Aeschylus, Grimm, the Mabinogian, but changed from their first form.

Sometimes I don't know the tale I'm retelling until later. Consumed with a technique or speech I might make mules talk. I have gotten up in the middle of the night to read Kafka's "A Report to an Academy," the ape who becomes a man, "The Burrow" where the animal speaks of itself in all points in the third person, or "Investigations of a a Dog," or Josephine the Mouse Singer are retellings. Swift retells some version of a myth about humanity without exactly referring to it. The myth underlies and surrounds his giants, the same in a more ethereal sense of Blake's fairies and giant forms.

It is all to hide, which means reveal the true nature of a thing too big or too close to direct approach the thing hidden, meaning ourselves. What does it take against all the forces of commerce to conclude smoking dangerous? If we cannot see smoke and feel heat we will not see a more degenerate consciousness. If we want to show the beast for what it is while people say, what are you talking about, if one escaped the shadows and somehow got to light and returned, would they be believed? People think Kafka and Swift are writing fiction, but it is the revelation of human being. This is not psychology, to ride these torrents, stay afloat and wrestle parables and allegories from the hymn, to retell the telling once more.

3. Postscript

The layerings of lives are archaeological strata, unconscious until we name them, but whether named or not they still are there. Everything is built on everything else. No act or idea in itself is more than one coin toss with the same probability as two. There are many tosses. It 's all related and it's all deep down.

Words on a page create an illusion of being. They are illusions otherwise the world would be changed (after Hopkins). It is not. The effect of words is no inoculation, not a drug, not a cure, but its advantage is that, if long emerging, it is more permanent than a drug. Still there is a disconnect between beauty, the rhythm and image of the word, and the emotion which easily overcomes it. We have measures to counter the rapids of anger and the whirlpools of lust, it is the word itself. The word is efficacious as principle, witness what happens when people learn, read or hear something that changes them. The touch of a word ignites a change.

The word is a coat you wear over inner being, a clothing to nurture and protect what not only gives warmth, but confidence which you can give away, transfer by the will to extend it. You've been praying all these years to extend the word? Possible, likely. Do you think there is a word written in earth's center, in the self? If it is so in the absolute then in the relative sense your words come back upon you to establish an inner and an outer word.

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