20 June 2007

Greater than logic

Am thoroughly enjoying William Gass' discussion and translation of Rilke. Such rich work to sink my teeth into.
Not all properties of the conceptual systems we use to describe experience are characteristics of experience itself. Obviously we can use the German language to talk about the world, to say Die Welt ist alles was der Fall ist, or employ arithmetic to measure a room, or use a thermometer to take the temperature of the roast. But Nature does not speak German, the space of the room is not infinite just because between any of the numbers used to measure it there are an infinite amount more, and 20°C is not twice as hot as 10°C to the leg of lamb. Logical connections do not exist in Nature, only in Logic. And poetry is merely...merely poetry.
This is the first of Gass' work that I've read, and I'm thrilled (yet again) by how my expectations are being exceeded. I hope to write (quote) more soon, but his blow-by-blow account of his word choices in translating Rilke--in the face of 14 other translations of the same work--is revelatory. (And his unfailing sense of humor keeps everything in perspective.)

I've long thought that poetry transcends logic--that although it is a contruct (being a "created" thing), it makes much more than "sense." I'm reminded of Walker Percy's "Metaphor as Mistake" and the mystery of how literal "lies" (a living heart cannot actually be made of ice) come closer to truth than "factual" renderings. It's a favorite line of thinking that I'm finding traces of in what Gass is exploring in Rilke.

Another goldmine.

1 comment:

bhadd said...

"Omensetter's Luck" I thought began so-so then just blew the grid. Gass I like very much--very particular.