Monday, August 4, 2008

Of being "quiet," part III

Most of my friends like words too well. They set them under the blinding light of the poem and try to extract every possible connotation from each of them, every temporary pun, every direct or indirect connection - as if a word could become an object by mere addition of consequences. Others pick up words from the streets, from their bars, from their offices and display them proudly in their poems as if they were shouting, "See what I have collected from the American language. Look at my butterflies, my stamps, my old shoes!" What does one do with all this crap?

Words are what sticks to the real We use them to push the real, to drag the real into the poem. They are what we hold on with, nothing else. They are as valuable in themselves as rope with nothing to be tied to.

I repeat - the perfect poem has an infinitely small vocabulary.


I would like to make poems out of real objects. The lemon to be a lemon that the reader could cut or squeeze or taste - a real lemon like a newspaper in a collage is a real newspaper. I would like the moon in my poems to be a real moon, one which could be suddenly covered with a cloud that has nothing to do with the poem - a moon utterly independent of images. The imagination pictures the real. I would like to point to the real, disclose it, to make a poem that has no sound in it but the pointing of a finger.

- Jack Spicer, After Lorca


I must diet
on silence;
strengthen myself
with quiet

- Charles Reznikoff


(Part II is here, part I is here)

1 comment:

mgushuedc said...

Yeah, that Spicer quote always makes me feel very guilty, guilty as charged. It's an appropriate stance for a linguist and someone who said about his dying, My vocabulary did this to me.

And "words are what sticks to the real" reminds me of Mandelstam's word as Psyche, alighting in things or floating above the abandoned but not forgotten real. Something like that.

Spicer and Mandelstam. Maybe I'll take up scrapbooking.