Monday, April 4, 2011

Dog-Eared Pages, Underlined Sentences (#1)


“One of the reasons I write poems is that they make revelation possible. I sometimes think I ought to spend the rest of my life writing a single poem whose action reaches an epiphany only at the point of exhaustion, in the combustion of the whole life, and continues and renews, until it blows away like a puff of milkweed. “
-Stanley Kunitz, an interview with Paris Review


“It is the gap between what one wants to say (or what one perceives there is to say) and what one can say (what is sayable), words provide for a collaboration and a desertion. We delight in our sensuous involvement with the materials of language, we long to join words to the world—to close the gap between ourselves and things, and we suffer from doubt and anxiety as to our capacity to do so because of the limits of language itself.”
-Lyn Hejinian in “The Rejection of Closure”


“The thing that obsesses me is always beyond language. Language is almost an inconvenience. I have a feeling that no matter what kind of art we’re practicing, at some point we become hyper-aware of our medium. If we’re painting it’s paint and if writing it’s the language. But if we don’t at some point move beyond our hyper-consciousness of language, we’re stuck in the land of the medium. On that plane, only the relationships of words to other words is available, while the relationships of words to their ground, mother-silence, on the one hand, and to the concepts they name, on the other hand, gets abandoned…The beautiful Mexican poet, Octavio Paz, said something like—the difference between prose and poetry is that in prose you use language and in poetry, you yield to language. It feels like there’s this weird dialectic between us and the language. I can’t tell whether we just yield to it or we bend it. Maybe both. Sometimes it feels like we’re bending the language. Maybe it’s a process of self-making. I can’t tell.”
-Li-Young Lee, an interview with The Writer’s Chronicle


“What is this enigmatic impulse that does not allow one to settle down in the achieved, the finished? I think it is a quest for reality. I give to this word its na├»ve and solemn meaning, a meaning having nothing to do with philosophical debates of the last few centuries. It is the Earth as seen by Nils from the back of the gander and by the author of the Latin ode from the back of Pegasus. Undoubtedly, that Earth is and her riches cannot be exhausted by any description. To make such an assertion means to reject in advance a question we often hear today: “What is reality?”, for it is the same as the question of Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?” If among pairs of opposites which we use every day, the opposition of life and death has such an importance, no less importance should be ascribed to the oppositions of truth and falsehood, of reality and illusion.”
-Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel Prize Lecture (1980)


“In short, whatever the work is supposed to be,
Let it be true to itself, essentially simple.”
-Horace (trans. David Ferry) in “The Art of Poetry: Notes for Aspiring Poets and Playwrights”


“And reject the angel, and give the muse a kick in the seat of the pants, and conquer our fear of the violet smile exhaled by the eighteenth-century poetry, and of the great telescope in whose lens the muse, sickened by its limits, is sleeping.”
—Federico Garcia Lorca (trans. Christopher Mauer), in “Play and Theory of the Duende”


“Poets, if they’re genuine, must also keep repeating “I don’t know.” Each poem marks an effort to answer this statement, but as soon as the final period hits the page, the poet begins to hesitate, starts to realize that this particular answer was pure makeshift, absolutely inadequate to boot. So the poets keep on trying, and sooner or later the consecutive results of their self-dissatisfaction are clipped together with a giant paperclip by literary historians and called their “oeuvre”…”
—Wislawa Szymborska (trans. Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh), Nobel Lecture (1996): “The Poet and the World”


“From all this, my friends, there arises an insight which the poet must learn through other people. There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song—but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.”
—Pablo Neruda, Nobel Lecture (1971): “Towards the Splendid City”


“Aristotle, I have been told, has said that poetry is the most philosophic of all writing: it is so: its object is truth, not individual and local, but general, and operative; not standing upon external testimony, but carried alive into the heart by passion; truth which is its own testimony, which gives competence and confidence to the tribunal to which it appeals, and receives them from the same tribunal. Poetry is the image of man and nature…”
—William Wordsworth, “Preface to Lyrical Ballads”



1 comment:

Materurbium said...

Particular like Neruda's and Wislawa Szymborska's. I don’t know all the time :) This may sound dumb, but I kind of feel that when inspiration comes, it's like a state of sorts. It's not that all emotions are elevated, but that one particular part of the brain swells up and anything else sort of takes a back seat. Maybe that sounds dumb, but it feels like Stargate where the transport thingy is open just for a while, except the giant ring is sort of you and there are things coming through you and you need to write them down. Anyway :) enjoy your blog and the recent WSJ article. That's a big accomplishment. Congrats.