language, flesh, clay: miscellany 4

May 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

“Dear Lorca, I would like to make poems out of real objects. The lemon to be a lemon that the reader could cut or squeeze or taste — a real lemon like a newspaper in a collage is a real newspaper…” Jack Spiller qtd. in Gerald L. Bruns, The Material of Poetry, p.9

— “Imagine a poem of pure extension, that is, one that does not mirror the world but contacts it as if language were a mode of touching and not just saying.” Bruns, p.9

— “Marx had hoped that over time new human senses would develop; he never seemed to have imagined that entire spheres of sense experience might be lost for many first-world people: a tacit knowledge of tools and forms of dancing or of carrying infants, the disappearance of ways of living with animals or cultivating plant life, along with the smell and feel and sounds and even tastes that accompanied such practices; the sound of wind in uninhabited spaces; the weight of ripe things not yet harvested. These experiences are gone, and even their names will soon be gone. The historical body of poetic forms is more and more an archive of lost sensual experiences; by now an aura of nostalgia accrues around the notion of the poetic itself.” Susan Stewart, Poetry and the Fate of the Senses p.332

— “The odd carnality of words is that they arise ex nihilo, become incarnate in their saying, then instantly depart while at the same time they leave an imprint that resounds.” p.27 Terrence Des Pres, Praises and Dispraises: Poetry and Politics, the 20th Century

— “‘It is an impossible absolute that all words, that the texts, be written in such a way as to allow the words their complete semantic thickness. This is impossible. But if one has that sensitivity to the thickness of words, to the fact that they do have a history, that they have provoked associations of different ideas in each language and in each of the periods of the evolution of language, then this provides a much thicker material that is not superficial, which is a thing that one can mold precisely because it has the quality, the thickness, of potter’s clay. It is a physical object with many dimensions.'” Francis Ponge, qtd in Bruns, Modern Poetry and the Idea of Language p.280

— reading Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘The Fish’: “Here’s a beautiful series of echoes. Sometimes it’s simply the chiming of a repeated vowel (far and larger; scratched and glass); sometimes it’s a more complete rhyme (shallow and yellowbacked and packed). Then there are echoed initial consonants (tarnished and tinfoil), and subtle groups of near-rhymes (seen and lenses and isinglass). Such music-making lends the surface of language the complexity and interest of the surface  that’s being observed. The tongue and the muscles of the jaw must work to produce these sounds; even when we’re reading silently there’s a subtle physical participation taking place, an unspoken sounding of the poem’s words. This physicality — heightened by a progression of sounds whose thickness means we have to labor to enunciate them — is a way of mirroring the physicality of the world.” pp.25-6, Mark Doty, The Art of Description

— “The musicality of poetry, its sonic texture, is a value in itself. It is, to some degree, the essence of poetry, that which makes the poem irreplaceable by a straight-forward translation into prose: the poem’s body of sound is its specific, particular flesh.” p.117 Mark Doty

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