Friday, April 11, 2008


And when does it occur to you? Three-quarters into a weighty conversation with that old, but estranged friend? Between the covers, perhaps, of that ancient novel you finally decided to enter. Calling it a question of language and you begin to stalk it. Vocabulary - too easy. Syntax - too cold. Culture. Warmer. Jauss with his diachronic and synchronic cross-sections...ouch. Abort.

The term poetry. What it admits to carrying in its marrow. The very justification for its skeletal structure. Eloquence. Now we're getting somewhere. Is the very attempt an admission of something seen as lofty and out of touch? Choice of words and sentence structure. Subject matter. Tone and voice. Every creative writer feels the pull of the reigns while constructing pieces for the body. Will an arm too long or muscular draw attention away from the beauty of subtle movements? Will a countenance too piercing disrupt the function and motivation? Does even the use of a metaphor turn a face sour, too far from the suface, constituting a breach of contract with what is empirical by the simplest of equations?

But then that has always been the case, no? Context and timing left to carry a thing from its opaque realm and into a part of us waiting to be touched? And that part, growing smaller through age into an ever more informal future? Smaller, but maybe more intense. A diminishing in the face of the growing complexity of everyday life, does it need to be satiated by an inverse proportion? Poetry as amino acid for the aged. Literature as vitamin-infused sustenance for the emotional and pituitary self?

But do not think - or feel - for a second that I am overlooking the issue of what constitutes eloquence. It is quite topical, coming up recently in my context (and those much greater and more numerous). Discussions of new formalism, freedom of expression, quality, anachronism, the anxiety of influence and more. Eloquence. The successful expression of a thought beyond the level of everyday speech? A new twist on that speech? As our culture embraces, with increasing passion, a more populist paradigm (a term, of course, which sprials out to other discussions, and rightfully so) how strange it appears when a more concerted tongue is used to express our ideas in older sense of direct, but more symbolic, certainty.

from Dots and Lines
(a book that does not exist)

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