12 February 2006

Hopkins by the sea

We hiked up two mountains from Taganga to Bahia Concha yesterday, exhilarated by the blues of the variegated sea and our feet and hands climbing dirt, stones, and trees.

I read Helen Vendler's section on "Gerard Manley Hopkins and Sprung Rhythm" while my feet stood on the shore and the waves lapped at my knees. The ebb and flow nearly broke my heart as I read of his "remaking of the body of style" from the beginnings of his work to the end:
Hopkins' condensation of the sonnet form to ten and a half lines in "Pied Beauty" matches not only his syntactic condensation and his condensation of metrical movement into spondees but also his condensation of the world's disturbing variety into intelligible anithetical form ("swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim"). For the moment, Hopkins is telling us--through the stylistic body in which his rendition of the world moves--that though the world appears to him infinitely various, it is ultimately intelligible, not through the logically intelligible world of philosophy, nor through the recursively intelligible world of physics, but rather through the unpredictably intelligible world of antithetical sensation, alternately rapturous and painful. As the shocks of original sensation crowd thick and fast on one another, they are rapidly compressed by Hopkins' ecstatically instressing mind into a condensation of their original arrival. [...]

But in the tragic aggregation of experience, a poetics of pruning and paring will not suffice alone, any more than will a poetics of relaxed sensuous repose. Toward the end of his life, Hopkins writes a group of gigantic sonnets, of which the visibly longest, "That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection" (197-198) spreads across the page in explosive hexameter lines (running to fifteen or more syllables apiece) and hurls itself down the page in twenty-four such lines [...]

When the mind becomes one gigantic cacophony of groans, in eight-beat sprung-rhythm lines prolonging themselves into one undifferentiated monosyllabic vocal disharmony, we have come to the last agony of the stylistic body of poetry.
There is sand and salt-water staining these pages now.

Today I am writing this and listening to Joanna Newsom. She sings of "This Side of the Blue"
Svetlana sucks lemons across from me
and I am progressing abominably
and I do not know my own way to the sea
but the saltiest sea knows its own way to me

and the city that turns, turns protracted and slow
and I find myself toeing the embarcadero
and I find myself knowing the things that I knew
which is all that you can know on this side of the blue

and Jaime has eyes black and shiny as boots
and they march at you two-by-two(-re-loo-re-loo)
when she looks at you, you know that she's nowhere near through
it's the kindest heart beating this side of the blue

and the signifieds butt heads with the signifiers
and we all fall down slack-jawed to marvel at words
when across the sky sheet the impossible birds
in a steady illiterate movement homewards

and Gabriel stands beneath forest and moon
see them rattle and boo, and see them shake, and see them loom
see him fashion a cap from a page of Camus
and see him navigate deftly this side of the blue

and the rest of our lives will the moments accrue
when the shape of their goneness will flare up anew
then we do what we have to do(-re-loo-re-loo)
which is all that you can do on this side of the blue

oh it's all that you can do on this side of the blue
Reading, listening. Experiences overlap and coalesce into concentric circles of widening meaning.


Brook said...

"Reading, listening. Experiences overlap and coalesce into concentric circles of widening meaning"

good lord, did you write that line? that's astoundingly beautiful and profound!

luc u! said...

i enjoyed reading this