Sunday, April 20, 2008

New Wok

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III.




IV.


8 comments:

walrus said...

I take it that's a wok in progress.

W

belgianwaffle said...

Yes indeed!

*

I've been spending this afternoon reading Hadot on Marcus Aurelius and finishing off Heidegger's 'The Origin of the Work of Art'. It's been a few pages each day this week and I seem to come back to the essay every few years.

I'm amused by the pencilled passages - that's my twenty-year-old self that seemed to know with such absolute certainty what the essay was about. These days I lack such assurance. In fact - maybe it's the influence of Hadot - I'm coming round to the opinion that Heidegger's essay is not intended to deliver some ultimate statement. Rather, the essay is designed to be read poetically - as a gradual 'unveiling' entailing yet further retreats and questioning. As I read I have a sense of understanding - his very particular vocabulary of "open"s and "clearing"s etc acquire a meaning in situ/ in the act of reading - and yet I really could not provide a coherent summary ten minutes after closing the book.

I've known people who reject Heidegger for this very reason - especially the Adorno-ites - and yet, for me, he seems to be touching on important things (no pun intended, this time).

It's what I sense is at work in - say - Tarkovsky: the sequence in 'Mirror' as the wind stirs, the objects on the table fall ... . That it eludes articulation is, of course, part of the revealing-as-concealing. For that matter, many poems by Ashbery (who I'm dipping into ready for a class tomorrow).

(And I can hear shouts of: "what utter bollocks!")

Hey ho! On we go ...

The C.

walrus said...

Ah, Heidegger. I haven’t read “The Origin of the Work of Art”, but a while ago I dutifully devoted a few evenings to “What Are Poets For?”, keeping my Hölderlin and Rilke handy to mark down every page reference. Hölderlin comes out of it better than Rilke, although Rilke just about comes through in his best work, according to Heidegger.

The whole thing is a meditation on a line in Hölderlin’s “Bread and Wine”: “. . . . and what are poets for in a destitute time? [or “in lean years”, depending on your translation]”. “To be a poet in a destitute time means: to attend, singing, to the trace of the fugitive gods,” says Heidegger. All rather heady and wonderful stuff, but, like you, I must admit that very little of it sticks afterwards.

My admiration for Blanchot makes me feel I should really get to grips with Heidegger on poetry, not to mention Hölderlin, whose Hyperion I find rather dull (a terrible thing to admit); I just can’t seem to find a way in to it. As for Rilke, I can appreciate The Duino Elegies, The Sonnets to Orpheus &c, but I always feel I’m working at something rather than being carried away by the poet’s vision.

I think perhaps the problem lies with poetry in translation, but also a lack of time – reading any of them – Heidegger, Hölderlin or Rilke – in snatched moments would seem to be the very opposite of what (to adapt a phrase from Blanchot) their work demands.

Any thoughts on how best to approach Hölderlin or Rilke?

belgianwaffle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
belgianwaffle said...

Mmm … what I’m going to say would appall my colleagues in the languages dept. but the way I’m currently thinking about poetry in translation is to read it creatively.

I have to accept that I’ll never read Rimbaud, Rilke, Celan etc as a ‘native’. Then again, - and I was trying to suggest this earlier – having read Blanchot you could argue ALL poetry is read as a ‘foreign’ tongue. That peculiar kind of ‘nearness’/’farness’ he explores. In a way, me confronting a page of German is to become more aware of the ‘Otherness’ of my ‘own’ language. Opacity with moments of transparency.

Does this make sense? (There’s a question!)

I aspire to Bunting’s attitude – that it makes no difference whether you speak the language or not, great poetry will communicate its meaning through sound and rhythm. I’m sure that worked for him – but I don’t possess his ears! However, I was enjoying reading Celan last week by muting the ‘sense’ and letting the sounds speak for themselves. So, that’s another way to go. (Lisa does some exercises with students where they’re given extracts of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and told to ‘translate’ them as a basis for a poem).

I’m also aware of some Berrigan texts (don’t have them to hand right now) where he deliberately ‘mis-reads/mistranslates’ to generate his own writing. I’ve played around with a Mallarme poem seeing what would come up. Clearly, this is not a respectful academic approach. But does that matter? Maybe it’s more important to be reading-writing and – perhaps – the resulting text will be, in some way, ‘truthful’ to the original. (Here we’re opening up some major cans of worms concerning textual meaning). And I’d prefer to have a felt relationship with a poet’s writings than an at arm’s length nodding acquaintance. (yes?)

And, while we’re at it, I think an aspect of Peter Gizzi’s textual mirrorings has been to take non-English language poems and to write with/against them – no doubt taking a lead from Jack Spicer (‘After Lorca’ is a key text here).

Finally, another approach is to be hyper-scholarly and dig down through the language. (I wonder if this isn’t one of Bernadette Mayer’s Writing Ideas). This is very time consuming but fascinating - as, for instance, I started delving into Celan’s ‘mandeln’ to find the almond:tonsil connection which, in turn, leads to ‘amygdala’ – which can be used in terms of the two lobes of the brain and all the religious associations you were pulling on. And so just one word acts as a kind of lens to magnify a potential poem! (That’s Emerson, I think, – “every word is a poem” - ?). This is the sort of work I get really excited about during my holidays when I have the time to allow things to eveolve. And, right now, with six clases to teach, makes me feel rather frustrated!

So, my motto is: if it sparks your writing then that’s the way to go!(And try to leave castrating memories of language classes behind!).

What do you think?

Le Bricoleur

walrus said...

Amen to that.

“Proust says: ‘Great literature is written in a sort of foreign language. To each sentence we attach a meaning, or at any rate a mental image, which is often a mistranslation. But in great literature all our mistranslations result in beauty.’ This is the good way to read: all mistranslations are good – always provided that they do not consist in interpretations, but relate to the use of the book, that they multiply its use, that they create yet another language inside its language. ‘Great literature is written in a sort of foreign language . . .’ That is the definition of style.”

Gilles Deleuze (with Claire Parnet), Dialogues (1977)


“‘Life Among the Woods’ was made from a French grammar school book, and I simply went through it translating it, a part of it . . . Only I didn’t want to take the trouble of looking things up in the dictionary . . . so when I didn’t know what a word meant, or two words, I put in a word that sounded like the word knowing that it was dead wrong, what I was putting in, but very interested in what kind of fairytale I might come up with. It has a weird, Max Jacob, fairytale quality I think.”

Talking in Tranquility: Interviews with Ted Berrigan (p.28)


W

belgianwaffle said...

That's a great quotation from Deleuze - I read bits of that book in French years ago, only got a hazy impression of what he was talking about, and never got round to tracking down a copy in English. I will rectify this!

Reading over my post I notice how I sound so full of bloody good ideas. You'd swear I was tossing off poems left, right and centre. Nothing could be further from the truth! Just one of these approaches would yield some interesting work.

Next week classes start to fade away and summer beckons. We live in hope!

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