Monday, February 4, 2008

Thoughts for thoughts?


I tend to balk upon first encountering grand pronouncements made by eminent poets and physicists, but after a few hours the dust clears or I stop blushing, and the zaniest abstract zingers prove not only interesting but strangely bottomless. I notice: the last page of Robert Kelly's In Time (1971) reads:
LANGUAGE IS SPACE
The last page of Robin Blaser's The Holy Forest (2006) reads: 
language is love
And the syllogism completes itself with Albert Einstein's (apocryphal?) assertion (which really blew my mind when I was 12): 
Space is love.
Whaddya make a that? Language, space, love are major elements, verbal abstractions we feel as natural, concrete, fresh and palpable, and the recombining and rearranging of such elements is an essential human activity, though I may be inclined reflexively to dodge the pomp or pump an ironic fist, having grown up reticent and silly and too inarticulately skeptical. Desperate to renew always any sense we may have of space, love, language we reshuffle the deck. 

And lay the language out in space, as space, by way of the constant fourth term, the copula is. Is is doing the same thing in these three instances? Spacing, loving, languageing in the gap?

The copula is one way of reinventing a relation. There are causal hierarchies–Thales' "everything is water," Herakleitos' "everything is fire" etc.–and temporal, melodic juxtapositions–reading Mark Scroggins' new biography of Louis Zukofsky, I think of how certain "elemental" nouns recur in LZ's poems, especially as final words of poems or sections: air, sun, light, song, leaves, loves. As though the mind followed a tune that was an equation to be "solved" (unexpectedly, I imagine) by arriving at the resonant word that made it stop.

Then (to introduce an even more uncomfortable alias of language, love and space) I think of the way the beginning of the gospel of John sets forth its ambiguous relations: 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
And Jack Spicer's complicating clarification in "A Textbook of Poetry": 
'Personify,' you say. 'It is less abstract to make a person out of a sound.' But the word was the word not because he was personified but because he was a personification. As if he were human.
But this is getting out of hand. I meet with a phrase of two emphatic abstract profundity or pseudo-profundity and my first instinct is to mock it or skip it, my next to sit and stare at it-not really knowing, in most cases, how to think with such tools. I guess the moral tonight is that the major elements are capable of endless permutations which are likely to be fascinating without requiring any posturing as to their "depth" or quibbling as to their truth.

*

Yesterday was a lovey, spacey, but not very verbal day, spent mostly walking all around this oversized town putting up fliers for the Spare Room reading by Hank Lazer and Laura Feldman next Sunday. I got hailed on a little. The streetcar proved no help at all–faster to walk.

*

I checked out George Stanley's 2003 selected poems, A Tall, Serious Girl, from the library. He has a poem called "Pompeii" which opens with a marvelous rhetorical turn, almost koan-like in its redundancy:
When I read this poem I think of Pompeii.
I haven't read much beyond that (written in North Beach, c. 1957), but I'm excited to. 

*

In the Zukofsky biography, The Poem of a Life, I love William Carlos Williams' praise in a note on first reading "Poem Beginning 'The'": "actual word stuff, not thoughts for thoughts," which brilliantly captures the quality of all LZ's best things. (See John Latta's extensive and intricate blog notes on the book scattered throughout here.)


1 comment:

Rich J said...

Re: Lang space love


Is is is.