Thursday, September 1, 2011

Poetological exegesis

Judging by the lack of resounding worldwide response, it would appear that the global literary community somewhat underestimates the depth and complexity of that last post, which indeed represents the cusp and culmination of the Western philosophico-poetic tradition of the past two thousand years.  It is a masterpiece of concision, expression, and empathy -- almost to the point of metempsychosis.  Scholars of comparative literature will already have noted the thematic consonance with that earlier masterwork, in which the empathetic process is caught in mid-flight, rather than in a state of perfection.

Note in particular the very different meanings of the first line and the third. 
The first is the hemipteran equivalent of the Cogito -- an existential epiphany as the monad is born into the world. 
The third line, by stark contrast, is addressed to the world at large.   The monad has accepted and introcepted the role and the being assigned him by his Creator, and presents himself as such to the rest of the Creation.  The response of the angelic choir, to this magnificent effusion, is omitted from the text of the poem, but is implied.
There are many levels to the next few lines, but to unfold them would take a lifetime.  At any rate, the final death-bed reflections are particularly moving.

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Compare now as well, this pair, of superficially similar twins:




The first one, “word/less/ness”, is devoid of emotional or philosophical content.  It is really just a sort of jest in the direction of Minimalism, which is the theme of our sequence of Monostichs.   We posted it (if memory serves) as a sort of placeholder, simply to have something to put up that day, lest the blog grow stale.   We should probably have deleted it, did not its very shallowness point up the profundity of “de-sire / less / ness”,  its successor.
            Of desirelessness (technically:  anhedonia), I almost dare not speak -- you see, indeed, with what effort, or rather with what lack of force, the word was uttered in its monostichal setting:   each syllable simply washed outwards as you exhale (thus the whole word takes four full cycles of inspiration and expiration  to enunciate).   It is a state, so they say, sought-after by yogis or whatever they are -- deus avertat, for any Christian.   In my sloppy, soupy adolescence (no worse than yours -- not whining here), I wrote a pseudo-ballad, whose concluding line was

I wish I could feel some emotion
if only sorrow or disgrace.

(the first hemistich snarl-sung as in Dylan; the second recititivo).
This had not even the virtue of being original, being but a recycling of the classic (and jollier) “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all”.

It is a state  not of pain -- indeed it presupposes painlessness -- but of absence, absence of anything at all.  Not depression;  not indecision.   A state of calm, and lucidity.  Just only … you desire nothing.   And it is next door to Despair.
(“I want nothing.” -- G.K. Chesterton explores the terrifying triple meaning of this dreadful phrase, in his consummate story, “The Wrong Shape”.)

God shield us from the sins towards which we strive in our desires;  yet much more keenly, shield us, Lord, from such Desirelessness.


The relatively poor quality of Monostich XXIX (“Not up to his usual stellar standards”, later critics will shake their heads), I have revised it, thus:

            monostich(XXIX -- resartus)

(“Resartus” -- patched up.)   And what a difference !   Where XXIX had been purely passive, applicable to someone who simply clammed up, XXIX-bis is actively straining to express the ineffable.

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