01 May 2006

Eternal process

Helen Vendler on "Jorie Graham: The Moment of Excess":
Pollock's Part I terror of the conclusiveness of final shape is answered in Part III of "Pollock and Canvas," which envisages a way out of formal shape. That formal shape (beauty, love, the figure), once it has been conferred on the canvas, permanently settles over a piece of life and determines it. The only way out of the conclusiveness of that formal shape is the admission into it of elements of chance; and Graham's figure for that possibility is God's rest after He made the world, a point at which the unintended, the serpent, can slip into Paradise[.]
This is the snapping of the thread of narrative...the loss of any sense of foreshadowing in our unwritten lives. A step, once taken, is irrevocable. There is no undoing it. (As Lucinda sings, "Can't put the rain back in the sky...")

I find myself continuing to daringly love the indeterminate, the ambiguous, the unsaid, the vague, the suggestive, and the unbound...for my own good. We long for closure, assurance, response, definition, the effable, the fixed. But this is what necessitated loss, pain, and the anguish of erroded hopes.

I begin to comprehend the thoughts behind this poetry and remember those of the apophatic tradition--Alice's journey to the garden of live flowers by walking in the opposite direction. Jorie Graham writes,
                ...Then things not yet true
                which slip in

are true,
                aren't they?
Negation--the opposite, the chaotic, the random--inhabits truth as well. It is paradox, the undoing of tidy lines and fixed truths--the suspension of both belief and disbelief.

In addressing Part II, Vendler explains how it enacts "space, middleness, incarnation, illusion, suspension" and
speaks directly of what the double excess of the long line and the long pause mean to Graham--a way of representing the luxurious spread of experienced being, preanalytic and precontingent. This condition has Romantic affinities; but Graham does not want to be laid asleep in body to become a living soul. Rather, against Wordsworth, she almost wants to be laid asleep in mind to become a living body. Her maya contains no access to Wordsworthian transcendence; rather, she accepts its blessed stoppage in prolonged sensual illusion, that excess that is, in Stevens' terms, the cure of sorrow. The incarnation of this maya as it takes place "between the creator and the created" (83) is the Stevensian moment of credences of summer, of human existence without temporal entrance or exit, represented paradoxically by "of the graces the / 8 / most violent one, the one all gash, all description." This grace is the Muse of eternal process, who has replaced for Graham the meditated, investigateive, and shaped Muse of product.
It is both/and, not either/or. It is all Possibility--not act but the potential of act. Process. The correct limbo of the time-between-times--our inescapable state of being neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring, but flesh and spirit, mortal and immortal--equal parts angel, demon, and dirt.

I continue to avoid definitions and the static as much as possible. One day I will be caught...by what, I don't know. Clutching pen and paper with both hands in this meantime, white-knuckling the little that is left to me, which still encompasses more than I will ever use...
Not until inner feeling and outer perception begin to meld, and the poet's body becomes, kinesthetically, a form of the world's fluid body, can the world be re-created in language. The poet declares her creed: that the sun must come up in her before it can come up on her page; and it must come up on her page before it can come up for her reader[.]

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