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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Exile is a condition of the redeemed life.  Joni Tevis, The Wet Collection, “A Field Guide to Iridescence and Memory”

from Fragments of a Broken Poetics
Disembodied, the poem provokes longing. Its incorporeity is inscribed in myth: the severed head of Orpheus adrift on the Aegean Sea. Though separated, the head continues to sing. The song it sings is either a lament of exile from the body or a celebration of freedom from its material prison, depending on the direction of the winds. 


Inlay (Elaine Scarry)                                     Donna Stonecipher

  If only our troubles were those of the architect. In which the solution is born at the same time as the problem. The architect has simply to work her way toward it, through a dark tunnel or a prescribed maze. Which proves the marvelous fact that there are cases in life where ingenuity is not the primary virtue --- but rather tenacity.

   You keep doing it, he said to her one night. You keep moving across town and then feeling the “lost” streets pulling you back like a siren song, all disfigured by hope. This time let it be the swan song. Let the dying swan glide through your canals and then sink to the bottom like a piece of Cleopatra’s dysfunctional bateau.

   You can know the aristocratic pretensions of a scene by the proportion of sky to landscape, she ruminated in the museum. The more sky, the more elegant the tiny Russians strolling along the embankment twirling parasols. If a sky can be profligate, what limit the bankrolls nestled in fustian pockets?

   Which would you rather your head be full of, facts or ideas? (Clouds, riposted the cosmopolitan.) Facts are finite, said the dreamer. Ideas reproduce exponentially, said the monkey. But inside every fact is an idea, said the beautiful girl. But inside every idea is a beautiful girl, said the man in a brown study.

   The voluntary exile dreamed of the clouds that form over her native city. There she knew the names of all the birds. She had learned this voluntarily, by application. But all kinds of knowledge collects like sediment in local minds, useless but for ballast --- which, as all exiles know, should never be underestimated.

   If only our troubles were those of the town planner. On our freshly prepared grid, where to position the park, the town hall, the elementary school, the bored housewife fucking the plumber? The town is a given. The town waits like a fate for the town planner, who slowly reveals it with a blue pencil.

                                 “Daydreaming originates in the volitional”

   “Ideally, I’d look like a Spaniard, fuck like a Serb, and make money hand over fist like an American,” said the cosmopolitan sitting in Hong Kong, drinking a caipirinha. Only the American bristled. The reflective man, the genius, the seer, the torchbearer, the radical, the spiritualist, the moral high-hogger

   She had climbed all the stairs of pleasure and was shocked to find no issue at the top. So pleasure has a glass ceiling: or, the idea of more pleasure can form in the mind, but the fact of more pleasure in the body can not. The girl lying next to her bed could not stop putting her hand into the bag of little candy hearts.

   The citizen has ideas about the architect, but the architect has ideas about the citizen. The architect needs the citizens to people the plaza. But do the citizens need the architect? Yes, for the architect tells the citizens precisely how far they are willing to trust modernity --- and precisely how far they are not.

    If only our troubles were those of the bellboy. In which the world shrinks to a glowing pageant of installation and abandonment. The problem of the polished permanence of the temporary. And the vicarious thrill of holding all that has come under another’s sphere of influence in one’s own gloved hands.

   For years, she admitted one night, my greatest fantasy was this: buying a house, arranging it with my things, shopping for sofas and hassocks, and then locking it up and renting an apartment in a neighboring city. In the apartment I would always have flowers on my kitchen table: dahlias in September, and peonies in late spring.

   Facts are finite, but ideas feed on facts to achieve infinity. The architect sat down to his plans. The voluntary exile never learned the names of the birds in her adopted city. Each bird was a foreigner, flitting through trees and signing a beautiful mysterious song she hadn’t the remotest desire to comprehend.

from  A Poet's Alphabet       by Mark Strand, in The Weather of Words

O is for Oblivion. I feel as strongly about it as I do about nothing. Forgetfulness, the fullness of forgetting, the possibilities of forgottenness. The freedom of unmindfulness. It is the true beginning of poetry. It is the blank for which the will wills. And O, lest I forget, O is also for Ovid, II Naso, the first of the great exiles, whose book of changes, whose elevation of changing to a central place in the kingdom of the imagination, has made me wish to mention him, even if he has not directly influenced the poems I write. After all, what could I take from his beautiful telling of Echo and Narcissus or Jason and Medea? How could I duplicate the Song of Polyphemus? Maybe if I worked very hard I could produce a stumbling version of his fluency, and maybe a pale likeness of a few of his monstrous particulars, but never the two together. He was an effortless surrealist, a poet of boundless charm. And all it got him from the puritanical Augustus was exile to the shores of the Black Sea, in a place called Tomis.

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