Blunt bayonets, once sharp as wind? A hand—. Faizullah does not receive answers to her questions, nor does she experience an epiphany that reveals her essential identity to herself in a conclusive way. She knows better than to reach for such facile, dishonest ways of writing about inner turmoil. It might justly be said that the self is the central subject of the entire tradition of lyric poetry. And yet, some poets remain closer to the thinking and feeling center of the human than others, rather than looking consistently outward as observer, and more often regard the self itself than exterior phenomena.
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Few remain closer to that center than Franz Wright. His detractors would certainly single out this involution.
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And yes, it is true that Wright has long epitomized the Woe Is Me school of poetry. There is ubiquitous evidence of this in his body of work, but as his latest book also contains plentiful examples there is no need to consult the archives. The Hacs have arranged to rear every year a few child martyrs…raggedy, wretched, hopeless kids…whom they subject to atrocious mistreatment and evident injustices, inventing reasons and deceptive complications based on lies, for everything, in an atmosphere of terror and mystery.
In this way they have brought up great artists, poets. We also see here a touch of surrealist influence, in which youth and age are perceived simultaneously in the child, and in which time itself loses its usual hold on our daily experience. There is compassion and magnanimity at the heart of many of his poems:.
Wright also has a fascinating spiritual understanding of the importance of suffering for the development of the soul. In an interview with Ernest Hilbert, Wright said, in reference to the seventeenth-century poet George Herbert:. Our suffering may be the real form love takes, but we also know that at the end of it waits infinite peace and radiance, that has been my experience anyway.
And so when we read:. In writing. I signed my name.
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With its miniature plastic knives, its tuna salad and saran-wrapped genitalia will somebody please get me out of here, sorry. I am happy to say that every method, massive pharmaceuticals, art therapy and edifying films as well as others I would prefer not to mention—I mean, every single technique known to the mouth—sorry! I go on vacuuming, toward a small diamond light burning off in the distance. Although this slightly ironic tone is the dominant mode for Wright, there are moments where it seems that every pretense falls away, and the speaker bares his emotion and his mind before God.
And so we can be glad that, as all indications suggest, Wright will continue his poetic vocation. And it is through this expression of the mystery of the self and its relation to the divine that the reader feels most intimately connected with the searching mind behind the poems, recognizing the quest and the questions as her own.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Tags: art and culture art and faith art and meaning culture Franz Wright isolation Luke Hankins meaning Scott Cairns social media Tarfia Faizullah tradition truth. Issue Previous Archives. Outside the Isaak poems, we often see the poet expressly searching for a means of rendering his experience, and always finding both metaphor and language insufficient: To What Might This Be Compared? Your mother, age eight, follows your grandmother down worn stone steps to the old pond….
Early in the collection, she senses a divide not only geographically and generationally, but also between her desire to offer spiritual comfort and her sense that such an attempt might be empty: Two weeks ago I crossed two oceans wide as the funeral processions to your grave: bearded men continued to thumb plastic prayer beads beside your sheet-swaddled body. Grandmother, in Virginia, I cradled the phone to my cheek and stood over the dark skillet, waiting to turn over another slice of bacon to slip into my mouth, knowing well that sin, too, like so many others, would dissolve once I willed it to.
My name, or grade in life? Consider also the epigraph to the book: The Hacs have arranged to rear every year a few child martyrs…raggedy, wretched, hopeless kids…whom they subject to atrocious mistreatment and evident injustices, inventing reasons and deceptive complications based on lies, for everything, in an atmosphere of terror and mystery. At the trial of sleep, theoretically, I will be seeing you. Related Book Reviews. How Else Would God Enter? It is important to note, however, that where precision is needed or desired, Japanese grammar also provides the structure for unambiguous sentences.
Given the flexibility made possible by these linguistic devices and the prevalence of their use in literature, the Japanese language provides fertile ground for a poet who chooses to incorporate oblique references to widely shared assumptions into his poetry. It is also a battleground for a poet who wants to create a new construct which is free from what he sees as unwanted socio-cultural and literary clutter.
When Tanikawa says he "does not trust words," he is, in part, looking deep into the complex linguistic, cultural, and literary environment within which his poetry is bound to dwell.
Definitions As his motive for writing Definitions , Tanikawa says, "Vermeer's paintings, the writings of Arimasa Mori [a Japanese philosopher and scholar of French literature], and Alain's Definitions [translated by Mori] called up in me a seemingly contradictory concept of poetry being latent in precise prose.
But as I came closer and looked at details, I realized that they were not painted exactly as what eyes could see. Trash, a glass, any and everything in the world would be given eternal existence if Vermeer painted it. That was my intuitive take [. For me, it is poetry that looks at an actually existing subject to the ultimate degree. If I can present the subject truly and precisely, then won ' t the outcome be poetry itself?
If I do this with words, won ' t it take the form of a definition? Thus Tanikawa sets out to define what he sees around him using definitively precise language. But he realizes that his effort is somehow being subverted: [. This was a significant revelation to me.
I might say that words betrayed me in this manner, but conversely I could say that I was able to unfurl words in this manner. So his original concept inspired by Vermeer, Mori, and Alain refused to be executed with words in spite of his best efforts, whatever the reason might have been. Perhaps socio-cultural elements associated with the Japanese language function to subvert such efforts. Or perhaps objects by nature defy such linguistic control. But the outcome of his effort is most certainly a fascinating book of prose poems titled Definitions.
In this book Tanikawa explores the possibility of embodying objects or concepts in widely varied prose styles ranging from a quote from a dictionary definition of a term, to legal documents, and even to clever verbal acrobatics, literally "unfurling" words, to borrow Tanikawa's own phrase. Throughout, his sentences are tightly constructed for clarity. They seriously, somberly, and sometimes pompously defy the conventional lack of specificity in the Japanese language.
But, as Tanikawa confides, the more seriously objective the voice tries to be, the more fanciful the outcome becomes. This paradox is the very charm and strength of these poems. A series of seriously stated surreal events surrounds and suggests a momentary lapse of the poet's attention or consciousness as he observes a little girl playing in water, evoking elements on the canvas of a whimsical modern painting while inviting the reader to share the poet's experience of a shear in time.
This reminds me of Tanikawa's remark about narrative and poetry: " While a narrative progresses along the axis of time, poetry slices time and shows us its section, in my view, close to the sense in William Blake ' s ' To see a world in a grain of sand [.leondumoulin.nl/language/novel/6160-handbook-of-process.php
These "definitions" contain an intriguing mixture of objectivity and fancy. Isn't that what Vermeer did after all, though in a different medium? The issue I am really grappling with is a relationship between being life and words ," What is a word to a poet as a living being? How does a word relate to him and the entity it points to? In other words the word sea in his mind is the real sea itself, not just a symbol to convey a concept as we would generally accept it.
So are the cases for all other matter in existence in the whole universe.
The boy deals with the terror of being overtaken by the swarming entities by naming each with his words. He thereby creates a barrier between a word and what it represents, and places each in a neatly organized dictionary. The young protagonist simply passes through the experience, unaware of its significance, and slides back into his normal world. Through this boy's experience, we understand why Tanikawa is grappling with "the issue" of life, its relationship with words, and with poetry. For a poet who does not allow himself to just return to the conventional world of words, it is precisely those totally uncontrollable swarms inside him that he has to "grapple with.
We meet Auntie, who is "alive, with her pretty silvery hair shining in the sun," through objective eyes and ears of a poet as an outsider.
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