I’ve been silent awhile, mostly because I’ve had nothing of substance to say—a state I get into fairly frequently, truth be told. Prisoners in old movies would knot bed sheets together while painstakingly working the bars on their windows loose; in slightly less aged movies, prisoners work bricks free from a wall and spend years digging their way to freedom with a spoon. Me: I read books. Books and magazines and blogs. Eventually there’s a flash of hope: the bars come loose in my hands, or a streak of dusty light appears at the end of the tunnel. I start writing poems again, and my little world of imagined freedom is saved from oblivion like a capsized boat righted by some Ray Harryhausen version of Poseidon. I mean there’s “a rebirth of wonder,” as Ferlinghetti puts it.
I’m not there yet. Not today. But I did follow a link from Andrew Shields’ blog to this post by Donald Brown, a poet and film critic teaching at Yale, which has me thinking in a new way. Here’s an excerpt:
In my own case, ‘thinking like a lyric poet,’ when it happens, bypasses ‘thinking like a literary critic,’ which is to say that those lyric poets who ‘score’ most with me make me forget my own taste, my own intentions for language, my own limited grasp of myself. They remake my relation to language; they add to what I can imagine words doing. And when this doesn’t happen, then all I can see is how someone has wilfully distorted the perfectly suitable relation I had to language and to lyricism and to beauty and to all those other things I assume to be the aesthetic occasion of the lyric poem, or, worse, how someone has tried to approximate something I’ve already experienced, processed, understood, and has not done it well enough for me to recognize it, or has done it so poorly or erratically that I don’t want to recognize it.
This reminded me of something I’ve always looked for in my own poetic practice: a way to “forget my own taste … [and] intentions for language.” Maybe I occasionally get sentenced to my wonderless prison because I forget how to forget my own taste and intentions. Maybe they are the walls and the bars, and in some ways my handling of this blog has only reinforced them.