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Even the denial of a true idea creates a space which vibrates with possibility.

James Hamilton-Paterson


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Understanding verse

The poem I posted this morning started out as a response to William Carlos Williams' Spring and All -- I've been reading it in fits and starts over the past week or so and loving the physical and the auditory texture of the words, but far from sure they are making any semantic impact on my consciousness -- when I turn the page, the words I was reading do not seem to persist much as imagery or meaning. This is a common response of mine to long poetry and to dense prose, and the answer always seems to be, just enjoy the sounds and let the meaning follow if it will.

I got interested in this book when I realized that after so many years of pastiching "Red Wheelbarrow" and "This is just to say" on Making Light, I still don't have much knowledge of Williams beyond those two poems. In the interests of repeating the text, here are a few passages I am enjoying. (Generally I am pretty psyched and amazed by the use here of paragraphs within poetry.)

If anything of moment results -- so much the better. And so much the more likely it will be that no one will want to see it.

There is a constant barrier between the reader and his consciousness of immediate contact with the world. If there is an ocean it is here.


Meanwhile, SPRING, which has been approaching for several pages, is at last here.
...

The farmer in deep thought
is pacing through the rain
among his blank fields, with
hands in pockets,
in his head
the harvest already planted.

o meager times, so fat in everything imaginable ! imagine the New World that rises to our windows from the sea on Mondays and on Saturdays -- and on every other day of the week also. Imagine it in all its prismatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls -- our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure !

Ah -- here's the excerpt I was looking for -- the one that initially, when I was reading it, made me want to write this post, but which, when I went back to look, I could not find.

Even the most robust constitution has its limits, though the Roman feast with its reliance upon regurgitation to prolong it shows an active ingenuity, yet the powers of a man are so pitifully small, with the ocean to swallow -- that at the end of the feast nothing would be left but suicide.

That or the imagination which in this case takes the form of humor, is known in that form -- the release from physical necessity. Having eaten to the full we must acknowledge our insufficiency since we have not annihilated all food nor even the quantity of a good sized steer. However we have annihilated all eating: quite plainly we have no appetite. This is to say that the imagination has removed us from the banal necessity of bursting ourselves -- by acknowledging a new situation. We must acknowledge that the ocean we would drink is too vast -- but at the same time we realize that extension in our case is not confined to the intestine only. The stomach is full, the ocean no fuller, both have the same quantity of fullness. In that, then, one is equal to the other. Having eaten, the man has released his mind.

posted afternoon of Sunday, August 28th, 2011
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