Sunday, May 23rd, 2010
Breyten Breytenbach is blowing me away with the depth of his insight and the eloquent rhythm of his elocution in his Intimate Stranger. It is a prose work, or something like a prose work -- I'm sort of tempted to call it poetry written in really long lines which look like paragraphs... Here he is explaining some of the difference between poetry and prose:
...Poetry is a precise and tactile tongue, even though it can be called ‘universal’ because it always speaks poetry; irrespective of the language it inhabits or hides in. “Poetry is my mother tongue.” (Yang Liang)
Visual art is a language with its own alphabet. Music is a language replete with intent and with meaning and yet without words. These and other forms of artistic expression are the primary or original languages. They differ from our everyday working verbal tools -- philosophy, science, theology, sociology and politics -- in that they're not dependent on a consensus of lexical or contextual meaning. The languages of creativeness certainly also mean (they may even make sense and sentences), but the meaning is carried by the totality of means at their disposal: color, texture, echo, absense, shape, etc. They are both non-elusive and endlessly allusive.
Every sentence of this slim book contains a vast structure of meaning and I'm having to back up and reread a lot as I take it in... What do you do with a sentence like "What's left is the ash of the poet's craft which will be remembered embers to be recalled and read like runes and stones and bones still smoldering in the streets of wind and water, so beautiful and so bleak." -- other than admire it, run your tongue over the words, repeat it to yourself as you stare off into the distance?
This is the first work of Breytenbach's I've read -- previously I had only heard of him from Coetzee's Summertime. I'm in love with his authorial voice, at least in this work where he is speaking directly to me the Reader -- "fishing for memory in time"; "inventing consciousness"; he says the working title was On the Art of Being Intimate with Strangers, and I certainly get the impression that he is being intimate with me. I wonder what his poetry is like, if I will be able to get the same feeling from work that is not explicitly addressing me.
Thursday, June 30th, 2011
"However much you feed a wolf, it always looks to the forest. We are all wolves in the dense forest of Eternity." This was written by the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, the man said softly as he stroked the silver fur of the animal crouched in his arms. The animal pricked up its ears, then strained to look back at the dark copse of trees where shadows moved as if alive. As if alive and waiting to move out into the open.
Listen, this process called poetry is an exercise in imagining memory, and then having that memory snare and cherish imagination. Yet, every poem is and will be a capsule of territory in the perpetual present tense, a vessel taking on the ever-changing colors of the sea.
-- Breyten Breytenbach
"Poetry is the Breath of Awareness"
(The Tsvetaeva quote is from her book of essays, Art in the Light of Conscience, tr. Angela Livingstone.)
Sunday, November 17th, 2013
What a fantastic prompt this is, from Breytenbach's Intimate Stranger: "Poetry is fishing for memories in time." Reckon I'll go drop a line in the murky waters...
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