Friday, May 23, 2008

The Tendency of Dropped Objects to Fall

Reginald Shepherd has been quiet on his blog because he was seriously ill for weeks—close to death even. My comments on his poems were, unknowingly, made during his illness. I have more comments on them to come, as well as on his essays.

Here's another moment that reminded me of W. G. Sebald, this one from "The Tendency of Dropped Objects to Fall":

..... In exile Andromache's handmaid

builds a miniature Troy with toothpicks
and superglue, with matchsticks
from a story that she read: a helpless glitter
with tinfoil walls and someone

rolls over it in his sleep.

In The Rings of Saturn, Sebald wrote about a man who built a miniature version of the Temple of Jerusalem. There's some information about Sebald's source here.

The building of miniatures with toothpicks reminds me of Brian Phillips's comparison between poetry and shortwave-radio operators, in this essay. Poetry as toothpick temples and Troys?

4 comments:

brian salchert said...

Yes, a hobby can be honorable; but
the general perception is that if a
person does not get paid for what
he/she is doing, that doing is a
hobby. I disagree. Further, even
if what I make using language
and/or numbers is not made as the
"professionals" make things/ does
not mean that what I make is in any
way less worthy.
-
Just read the article by Brian
Phillips, and he is right about
taste and anxiety, the objective
and the subjective. I found his
metaphor of a man wanting to reach
the middle of a lake but being
unwilling to use both the boat and
the oars together quite apropos.
Still, especially since at this
time there are so many ways of
making poems (what the makers of
them say are poems), it often
becomes necessary to have a grasp
of the aesthetic underlying a given
poem in order to begin to evaluate
and appreciate it; and there are
some aesthetics one just cannot
get into. So, beauty has been
reduced to being largely in the
eye (mind) of the beholder even
though one senses beauty does yet
have a transcendent aspect. Will
it "take a poet to find the hidden
door"? I cannot say. However,
I do believe the aesthetic which
underlies a made thing is less
important than the thing made via
that aesthetic. Stanley Kunitz
said "a poem comes as a kind of
blessing" and my own experiences
have told me this is so. Thus, a
poem has within it the aesthetic
by which it manifests itself, and
the tighter the relationship
between its inner and outer self,
the more satifyingly will it
engage an observer of it. It is
possible to enjoy something
without understanding it, but it
definitely helps to know and feel
at ease with a poem's aesthetic.
Case in point: So far Stein's
"Tender Buttons" remains
unavailabe to me because I just
don't relate to its methodology.
This is also true for many of the
currently popular ways of making
poems, not that I haven't done
some experimenting of my own.
Sometimes I feel the "make it new"
idea is degenerative. Enough of
my ramblings.

Thank you for the link.

-

Oh, I'm voting for
"Come to Me, His Blood"
again.

Andrew Shields said...

Brian, thanks for your enjoyable "rambling," as you so modestly put it. The two key points for me were these:

"beauty has been reduced to being largely in the eye (mind) of the beholder even though one senses beauty does yet have a transcendent aspect."

"A poem has within it the aesthetic by which it manifests itself, and the tighter the relationship between its inner and outer self, the more satifyingly will it engage an observer of it."

The latter reminds me of how the World Saxophone Quartet played, at least in the mid-eighties, when they would start out with material that was only unusual in its instrumentation (four saxophones, no rhythm section) and slowly open things up into explosive free-form explorations that made complete sense, because they used the concert as a means to teach the audience how to hear that free-form stuff. The pianist Don Pullen was also really good at that: beginning a long solo with an R&B groove and eventually ending up sounding like the most experimental piano music in the world -- with the groove still driving things along.

Anonymous said...

Brian Phillips' thought -- "the swerve of inner response that defines one's personal reaction to a poem" -- reminds me, quite literally, of the London Tube building/riding experiences in 'Plague' (the poem by Damian Walford Davies that made it into DPP4's final round).

Thanks for sending the link to BP's essay :D))

-- dhsh

Andrew Shields said...

Charting "the swerve of inner response" is what I have been doing with Shepherd's poems, I think.