Friday, July 20, 2007

Cenozoic Time; objective poetics

I WROTE ABOUT Michael Kincaid's little book Solar Margins here a few months ago, and the other day a letter arrived from him, with a short poem and some additional — well, what are they, anyway? Aphorisms? Fragments?

An example:
The Ideal has limited rights of pronouncement. There are places its logic cannot go unless it agrees to be a student. (The Ideal is not known for such humility.)
I set this here without Kincaid's permission, and I hope I don't abuse his confidence in a correspondent he's never seen.

The poem he sent, three short couplets called "Down the Cañada," will not appear here; I don't think I should go quite that far. I will quote one line, the third:
Rock mirrors mind.
You can see how it would have made me recall Carl Rakosi's "Cenozoic Time," which appears here as I annotated it into a "song."

(It was sung by soprano Hiroko Yoshinaga, with violinist Akiko Kojima, violin, on March 13, 2004, in Carl's living room.
listen to it

I don't know anything about poetry. That seems astonishing, given a bachelor's degree in English literature: but there it is. I don't know anything about it, and I very much resist learning anything about it in any formal sense. I've always felt you learn most by some kind of osmotic exposure (you can follow the dismal examples in my memoir, whose sales could certainly be better), and it seems to me the best way to learn anything about poetry is to read it.

(I'd focus on Wallace Stevens.)

Carl, who I knew slightly toward the end of his long life, was classified an "Objectivist" by those who know about this sort of thing. William Carlos Williams was apparently the model; Wikipedia will fill you in on the details. It's a sensibility that pleases me: forty years ago when I discovered Francis Ponge, through the Goliard edition of a translation of his Le savon, it was his phenomenology that excited me.

"Cenozoic Time" seems to me about as objective as you can get, but "Down the Cañada" puts that into some question by, as it were, responding to it from a greater measure of detachment. Well, there's a lot to think about here, but it's time to go out to dinner.

No comments: