Cupids Health

Poetry as Necessary Imagination by Cody-Rose…


In his introduction to the anthology The Unwritten Song, Willard R. Trask cites what he calls “one of the very few detailed accounts of composition that … describes a process in which the elements of inspiration and conscious technique both play a part.” The source is an 1874 essay by J. F. H. Wholers called “The Mythologies and Traditions of the Maori in New Zealand”:

It is only when the poet feels the divine spark of inspiration once more strong within him that he deviates from the ordinary course of village life. … He removes himself to some lonely spot, there to avoid all contact with man or woman. He eats nothing but the flesh of coconuts, and drinks nothing but water. … For three days he thus purges his body of its vicious humours.  On the fourth morning he marks out a twelve-foot square on the ground. … This is his “house of song” wherein he will sit in travail with the poem that is yet unborn.  All the next night he sits there, bolt upright facing east. … Dawn breaks. As the edge of the sun’s disc appears over the eastern sea, the poet lifts his hands at arms’ length … and intones [his invocation to the sun]. … This incantation … he repeats three times, then rinses his mouth with salt water, thereby making his tongue “pure for song.”  Immediately after … he goes to the village to seek five friends … He brings them back to his “house of song.”  They carry with them … withered dancing wreaths, together with the feathers of frigate birds, and of this strange fuel they make a small, acridly smoking fire in the middle of the “house.”  The poet sits, in such a position that the smoke may be blown upon him … , and his five friends face him in a semicircle. … Without further preamble, he begins to recite the “rough draft” of his poem. … His friends … interrupt, criticize, interject suggestions, applaud, or howl down, according to their taste. … They will remain without food or drink … until night falls, searching for the right word, the balance and music to convert [the poem] into a finished work of art. … When all their wit and wisdom has been poured out upon him, they depart.  He remains alone again—probably for several days—to reflect upon their advice, accept, reject, accommodate, improve, as his genius dictates.  The responsibility for the completed song will be entirely his.

I do not know what a poem or song thus crafted would be like to experience, either in the recitation or the crafting itself, a poem thus born would, like all writing, like all made things, bear the marks of its making. The most beautiful things I have seen on the internet this year, this year of hellscape internet doom, are tik toks of Native women singing a sort of back and forth mirroring song, facing each other, a sort of mimicry and embellishment and round of the sounds of some animal or bird, eerie and haunting and joyful and coolly spooky in the synchrony of the dual resonance. We metabolize the world through our art, whatever the art is, we make of it material and embellish it. That seems to me to be the most fundamental human thing. Like corvids, we like the shiny things, and music, and anything we can do, we can do better, more, louder, softer, more beautiful, farther. We take the known world and go past it, every generation, or deepen it, or build upon it. Blake writes, “The true method of Knowledge is Experiment.” As in, that is The First.  It is the primary mode by which we encounter the world, and I would argue, by which we think, by which we begin to think through a thing. It is the primary tinkering that begins the carrying through to fruition any artistic endeavor; we think: what if I tried this, what if it was like this, how does it feel if … 

In his introduction to the anthology Technicians of the Sacred, Jerome Rothenberg writes of poetry—from all over the world and as far back in time as we have record—as Imagination (an initial mode of experiment) as a product of “both energy and intelligence.” I had a neuroscience professor who argued against the imagined premacy of “the natural”: he would say that a pianist has to practice playing the piano continually over the course of their life, because the hands revert back, that the piano exists at the outer limits of what human hands can naturally do, or maybe just a little beyond, has to be continually stretched toward. And my dad said classical music nerds disparage opera because they think it’s an unnatural and freakish thing to do to/with the human voice, a fact which seemed to delight him. My sister said if humans make one clay bowl then next we think, well, what else can we do— add to it, flute it, decorate it, what else can we make out of clay (add a penis handle, I thought she was going to say). I saw a meme on the internet that said the phrase “Bring back manly men’ is dangerous because you’re really describing a pretty narrow window of recent time like you overshoot by even a little bit and they’re all wearing wigs and capes.” Moby Dick was a flop. Hopkins could barely get his poems published. Have you read Tennyson? He’s a wingnut. Of the 10 poems Dickinson got published in her lifetime, “[they] were usually edited significantly to fit conventional poetic rules.” Whatever nameless imbecile edited her poems in those years thought they knew What A Poem Was or Should Be better than her.  [I want to acknowledge here that the reason we have these examples and not others as well is the racism of history, that I believe there have been countless more masterworks that we in our Now will never know than the few that got passed down to us through poetic generations, and while I am infinitely grateful for the poetic legacies we do have, I am also angry about those experiments that didn’t make it through and that I will never get to read and be astonished by.]  Rothenberg, later in his introduction to Technicians writes,“The poems themselves revealed … that poetry, like language itself, existed everywhere: as powerful, even complex, in its presumed beginnings as in many of its later works.  In the light of that approach, poetry appeared not as a luxury but as a true necessity: not a small corner of the world for those who lived it but equal to the world itself.”

It seems to me that there is, in every discipline, a small faction of people who think there is one right way to do things, constrained by just the very narrow time in which they themselves learned to do those things, perhaps from another person who likewise believed there was one way to do things, a sort of string of gullible people in rooms. Maybe these people are particularly good at getting and holding academic jobs, or finding funding for their journals, or writing their Elements of Style. They probably know the right people, and maybe even believe there is such a thing as “the right people to know.” That’s fine. I think we should let them, with a sort of twinkle in our eye that even a crow would recognize, and why not, the harm they do isn’t a great harm because the whole rest of the world is out here and easily discoverable, waiting, excited, even, and just full up of all of everyone else, sharing interesting things between each other, doing our little joyful exploring, refining, inventing and tinkering, seeing what else we can do, bigger louder, smaller, more beautiful, further, because that is what humans like to do, because we are having fun, because we always have, and because we can’t not. 



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

close

Be The First In The Know - Health Alerts

Get new posts by email:
RSS52.1k
Follow by Email77.5k
Twitter