June 25, 2013

Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle

Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle

[Wonderful book on poem and poetry. Writing down interesting tidbits!]

Opening line of poem, Paul Valery said, is like finding a fruit on the ground, a piece of fallen fruit you have never seen before and the poet’s task is to create the tree from which such a fruit would fall.

In the beginning was the Word. Western civilization rests upon those words. And yet there is a group of thinkers who believe that in the beginning was the Act. That nothing can precede action - no breathe before act, no thought before act, no pervasive love before some kind of act.

An act of the mind - to move, to make happen, to make manifest.

The poem is the consequence of its origins. Give me the fruit and I will take from it a seed and plant it and watch grow the tree from which it fell.

I am convinced that the first lyric poem was written at night, and that the moon was witness to eh event and that the event was witness to the moon.

Tonight I’ve watched (Poem?):

The moon and then
the Pleiades
go down

the night is now
half-gone; youth
goes; I am

in bed alone

The sun is the source of life itself, the great creative power. One cannot confront god without instant annihilation. The moon has no light of its own; our apprehension of it is but a reflection of the sun.

The moon is the very image of silence and as Charles Simic says, “The highest levels of consciousness are wordless”. The great lunacy of most lyric poem is that they attempt to use words to convey what cannot be put into words.

Stars were the first text, the first instance of gabbiness; connecting the stars, making a pattern out of them was the first story, sacred to storytellers. But the moon was the first poem, in the lyric sense.

Paul Auster points out in his novel Moon Palace, “A man can’t know where he is on earth except in relation to the moon or star.... A here exists only in relationship to a there.

Chinese have a whole holiday - the mid-autumn festival - given over to the moon. One the night of the full moon in September, families come together after dark and have an outdoor picnic, lit by those round lanterns that are in imitation of the moon. Chinese look at the moon and think of some family member or loved one who is not present and know that on this same evening the absent one if reflecting on them. I myself sat in circle of unmarried girls who passed the time imagining their unknown future husbands looking at the moon and imaging them. The lunar image became a fork of communication as indeed all imagery does it poetry. “The eye has knowledge the mind cannot share” says Hayden Carruth.

Like the aircraft used for the lunar launches, good books heavy and slow; their speed depends on their internal engines and where they are pointed. ZAs Julio Cortazar put i, “Man has reached the moon, but twenty centuries ago a poet knew the enchantments that would make the moon come down to earth, ultimately, what is the difference?”

Edward Lense, “that metaphoric language could no longer be used for the moon because it had become too prosaic once the astronauts had removed its mystery by landing it”. Basically it like saying a woman is not interesting unless she is a virgin.

Kenzaburo Oe, Japanese novelist said, “It is the second job of literature to create myth. But its first job is to destroy that myth”

Eugenio Montale says, “ He / who digs into the past would know / that barely a millionth of a second / divides the past from the future”

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings

We are human beings and our expressions are always inadequate, often painful.

From Penelop Fitzerald, The blue flower:
“But why do you do all this reading? You are not a student anymore”
“He would not read if he was” said, the Mandelsloh
“Students do not read, they drink”
“Why do they drink?” Sophie asked
“Because they desire to know the whole truth” said Fritz, “and that makes them desperate”
“What would it cost them” Sophie asked. “to know the whole truth?”
“They can’t reckon that” said Fritz, “but they know they can get drunk for three groschen”.

Words have a love for each other, a desire that culminates poetry

In Hindu poetics, “a poem is recognized as such by those who have a heart” If you don’t have a heart, you cannot recognize a poem.
The heart is a small closed space, .a symbol or souvenir of the inner life, the secret life, the silent life.

it is liable to come apart, if you touch it.

Two part of secrets are repression and expression, just as the two sides of the poem are the told and the untold.

Andre Gide: “Suffering consists in being unable to reveal oneself and when one happens to succeed in doiing so, in having nothing more to say”. Such is the life cycle of a secret: something is repressed, then expressed, leaving a void that fills again with repression.

I shall not finish my poem
What I have written is so sweet
The flies are beginning to torment me.

Language is for self awareness; One understands oneself; that is the beginning of language.

I seek an extended period of time, free from all distractions, so that I might be free to be distracted.

Poem is ‘essence of distractions’ which is certainly an oxymoron, since an essence is that which is most concentrated and distraction is so wide; in poem life distracts us from our lives and only with utmost concentration are we able to follow the exchange as it takes place.

"Imagine going out into the countryside and not being able to tell a snake from a cow from a mouse from a blade of grass. That was the level of our wisdom (or ignorance?)

Here is a beautiful Jewish custom: when a child is first introduced to books, a drop of honey is put on the cover and the child invited to step forward and lick it off so that he might know a rare sweetness awaits him.

Though it is many nights, my mind never comes home

An educated person is one who can be reasonably called upon to draw a conclusion.

“now you can tell how great
must be the love that burns in me
when it escapes my mind that we are empty
and I treat a shade as a solid thing” -Dante, Purgatorio

A letter is a sound and a sound is a voice and a voice to which we attach meaning - or significance - is a life.

Nothing I understand haunts me. Only the things I do not understand have that power over me.

Dear Sir,
I am in a madhouse and quite forget your name or who you are you must excuse me for I have nothing to communicate or tell of and why i am shut up I don’t know I have nothing to say so I conclude
Yours respectfully John Clare

Both the irrelevant and the sincere congratulate themselves and they have the sin of pride in common. Both can be feigned and both depend on the eye of the beholder.

Poem more than any other art form in existence, is the perfect vehicle for the direct expression of personal love.

I offer my dinner guest, after dinner, the choice between regular and decaf coffee, when in fact I don’t have any decaf in the house. I am so sincere in my effort to be a good host that I lie; I think this probably happens all the time in poetry.

You hear so much talk about risk-taking in poetry. Lying is a form of risk-taking, but no one talks about that.

Youth versus age. Play versus work.

He who doubts wants to be believed, he who hides wants to be found. he who curses with regularity uses God’s name as often as who prays

A poem is a finished work of the mind; it is not the work of a finished mind.

All the major religions in the world have sects that employ irreverence as a valuable tool for transmitting theology.

Life, friends is boring” - John Berryman’s dream song.

When students are searching for their voice, they are searching for poetry. When they find their voice, they will have found poetry. When they find poetry, they will live to regret it.

Ramakrishna said: Given a choice between going to heaven and hearing a lecture on heaven, people would choose a lecture.

Samuel Johnson said, “It is certain that any wild wish or vain imagination never takes such firm possession of the mind, as when it is found empty and unoccupied.

Behind those beneficent crinkly smiles,
Behind those mischievous eyes,
Behind all that bending and bowing...

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