melos, opsis, root: miscellany 3

October 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Stephen Spender, Life and the Poet:

“…there is no dividing line between the poet and the audience which enters into his poetry. The poet puts into words the potential poetry of other minds. If they accept it as poetry, it is because they accept it as their own poetry, something which they, given the illumination, now see, and might have said.” p.50

–“The greatest poet of an age is the poet who accepts most of life whilst penetrating farthest with his question ‘What does this signify?’ The greatest modern poet would be the poet most capable of accepting the most anti-poetic and brutal phenomena — war, slums, tyrannies — and revealing them as expressions of man’s spirit even in being denials of man’s spirit. All the conditions created by humanity are a language of phenomena, however destructive and oppressive.” pp.51-52

Sapphic stanza

— 4 lines: 2 hendecasyllabic verses followed by a third in the same form + continuing with 5 extra syllables (which becomes the 4th line in modern verse, known as the Adonic or adonean line)

— key:   — long  u  short  x ‘anceps’ = free

— u — x — u u — u — —
— u — x — u u — u — —
— u — x — u u — u — —
— u u — u

from Welsh, Roots of Lyric

— “The ‘real core of poetry’, [Frye] writes, is not descriptive meaning, and not the poet’s cri de coeur (which is a description of an emotion), but a subtle and elusive verbal pattern that avoids, and does not lead to, such bald statements’ (p.81).” p.18 Welsh Roots of Lyric

— roots of lyric are melos (music/’babble’) and opsis (image/’doodle’ a la Frye); motion or movement through time & stasis, the still image

— that melos & opsis are “fundamental powers” p.21, not a plaster stuck on to some underlying ‘meaning’; that riddle and metaphor (opsis) “engenders thought by teaching us something” p.32; a riddle creates a space for knowing; “The riddle’s peculiar vision leads to complex and paradoxical ways of knowing something, ways that good poets will not allow to be resolved simply” p.44; images as an “intuitive language”

— Pound’s “ideogrammatic method” as a kind of thought that moves from the concrete towards the abstract (cherries/rose/flamingo/iron rust = redness); there are energies between images

— similarly, rhyme can also draw connections between words: “…rhyme in poetry has a way of moving beyond ornamentation, a way of discovering significant connections between the meanings of the rhyming words” p.123

— Frye, on the origins of the music of lyric in language: “‘an oracular, meditative, irregular, unpredictable, and essentially discontinuous rhythm, emerging from the coincidences of the sound-pattern'” p.134 (Anatomy p.271); i.e. an organization of “sound echoes” distinct from metre  p.134

–“Melopoeia… is a force that leads poetry away from precisions of word and meaning, but that may be, as Pound said, a bridge to non-verbal consciousness….” p.155

Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry

–“When an original grows old, its dated words and syntax serve as a kind of watermark. Age in itself gives substance–what has lasted becomes a thing worth keeping. An older poem’s increasing strangeness of language is part of its beauty, in the same way that the cracks and darkening of an old painting become part of its luminosity in the viewer’s mind: they enter not only the physical painting, but our vision of it as well.” p.67

Terrence Des Pres, Praises and Dispraises

–“The odd carnality of words is that they arise ex nihilo, become incarnate in their saying, then instantly depart while at the same time they leave an imprint that resounds. Poetry activates memory through its soundings — through rhyme, alliteration, etc., but also tone, inflection, and finally the entire  ensemble of ‘voice,’ which is the earthly shape of sound in motion. Language of this memorable  kind is capable of persisting through a void or, on the other hand, through the dense  chaos fo language in the world. Poetry — any set of lines we prize — sorts itself out from the infinitude of babble and allows us moments of coherence, of lucidity and self-possession as close to unity of being as most of us shall come…” p.27

–“Language and imagination together constitute a system of grace and a force…” p.27

— use metaphor to be precise–how seeing similarity or likeness in disparate things can help to bring the thing into better focus, as if applying to it a series of lenses
— describe materials his body will become: resemblance//becoming  sinew, string, root; the organic body described in terms of other organic things, & inorganic materials

Gerald L. Bruns, The Material of Poetry: 3 theses:

1. “that poetry is made of language but is not a use of it” p.7 i.e. “Poetry is language in excess of the functions of language….” p.7

2. that poetry is “not necessarily made of words but is rooted in, and in fact already fully formed by, sounds produced by the human voice…” p7/8

3. that poetry “does not occupy a realm of its own…poetry enjoys a special ontological relation with ordinary things of the world” p.9

“The French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas  thinks of language not as a mode of cognition and representation but as a mode of proximity, sensibility, or contact, as if language were corporeal,  like skin.”  p.9

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