The Nation's Poets Speak Out
Clouds are dealt with, and a promise of wisdom by July (hopefully).
So there we are:
Searching for a Heartbeat in Poetry & Music
Clouds are dealt with, and a promise of wisdom by July (hopefully).
So there we are:
A few thoughts from Heidegger’s “The Origin of the Work of Art” on poetry:
Few are experienced enough in the difference between an object of scholarship and a matter of thought.
Discourse cheers us to companionable reflection. Such reflection neither parades polemical opinions nor does it tolerate complaisant agreement. The sail of thinking keeps trimmed hard to the wind of the matter.
One who thinks greatly must err greatly.
Thinking’s saying would be stilled in its being only by becoming unable to say that which must remain unspoken.
Such inability would bring thinking face to face with its matter.
What is spoken is never, and in no language, what is said.
The unpretentious thing evades thought most stubbornly.
Art is truth setting itself to work.
It is precisely in great art . . . that the artist remains inconsequential as compared with the work, almost like a passageway that destroys itself in the creative process for the work to emerge.
The work lets the earth be an earth.
[T]he poet also uses the word—not, however, like ordinary speakers and writers who have to use them up, but rather in such a way that the word only now becomes and remains truly a word.
There is much in being that one cannot master. There is but little that comes to be known. What is known remains inexact, what is mastered, insecure.
Earth juts through the world and world grounds itself on the earth only so far as truth happens as the primal conflict between clearing and concealing. But how does truth happen? We answer: it happens in a few essential ways. One of these ways in which truth happens is the work-being of the work. Setting up a world and setting forth the earth, the work is the fighting of the battle in which the unconcealedness of beings as a whole, or truth, is won.
The more essentially the work opens itself, the more luminous becomes the uniqueness of the fact that it is rather than it is not.
Each answer remains in force as an answer only as long as it is rooted in questioning.
Poetry is the saying of the unconcealedness of what is.
The truth that discloses itself in the work can never be proved or derived from what went before. What went before is refuted in its exclusive reality by the work.
. . .
And is there any greater fear today than that of thinking?
Some thoughts from Claude Royet-Journoud (trans Keith Waldrop) on poetry:
The whole of poetry is preposition.
All writing is built on entropy. The only question is the one of sense, and that is insoluble. Sense has to be caught the moment it develops, while it remains still undetermined.
The trick is to be literal (not metaphorical).
The book “turns” on certain unsettled terms—where the word is searching for definition by the reader.
To found a real on the metaphorical! I prefer surface, the flat, and, frankly, the platitude, since it alone forces the world to answer.
What is written is mute.
Displacing the world, not by changing the world, but by repeating it.
We only “verify” commonplaces.
Form as excess of emotion.
Jack Spicer: Metaphors are not for humans.
“Because they know all the words, they think they know all the verities.” (Joseph Joubert.)
“In fact, to say that beginning is the act by which we begin, is giving a pretty lame explanation.” (Kierkegaard.)
The only “truth,” movement. Movement, not rhythm.
“The real and the true are two different things.” (Robert Bresson.)
“Now it is not the case that everything we say is said with the point entirely clear; more often our mouth speaks by itself.” (Wittgenstein.)
I’m enjoying greatly Claude Royet-Journoud’s the whole of poetry is preposition, translated by Keith Waldrop. I have a lot to say about it and with it, but as I only started reading it today, I’m not wanting to jump in quite yet.
So here’s a short interview I found online, to hold us:
Shearsman No 2 - 1981
Claude Royet-Journoud Interviewed
1972 : Gallimard publishes a 96 page book by Claude Royet-Journoud entitled “Le Renversement” (Reversal). In “Le Figaro”, Maurice Chapelan goes wild. Under the title “So much white, so much white”, he writes “That much white would certainly inspire dreams. Why not of a first communion procession in a snowy field ?” “Can you then be surprised that our contemporaries don’t seem to give a damn about poetry or poets! The latter - or their publishers - need only stop taking them for idiots.”
1978 : Gallimard publishes a 112 page book by Claude Royet-Journoud entitled “La notion d’obstacle” (The notion of obstacle). Lionel Ray writes in “L’Humanité” “ Arranging ten lines (the first of which repeats the title, vois ci ) on six pages does not strike me as such a feat; nor does placing one word, “fragility”, all alone in the middle of a page. It’s as if the last century’s Mallarméan enterprise had degenerated into an intellectualism which is naive and, in the last analysis, without perspectives.
What provoked this outburst which borders on an infringement of creative freedom ? Accusations such as intellectual naivete or scorn for the public deny literature its rightful activity, and are closer to denunciation than critical discussion. The review, in fact, goes against the current of literary history, seriously misunderstanding the notion of space represented by the book, which is the object of Royet-Journoud’s work, and that of many others. As can be seen in the following interview, more than the publication of these two books is at stake. The problem is ideological, political, since we are unable to reflect upon the a priori or unspoken assumptions underlying this “critique”.
And then - there is so much beauty and rigor in Claude Royet-Journoud’s writing. I use these words intentionally to express the fact that with his rigor, he exposes a language within language. What’s emotion if not a similar kind of apparition? Read…
it should be blue
the literary color
when we hold wake over a new form of obscurity
(tr. Keith Waldrop. From The Image-Maker)
Mathieu Bénézet : Your texts can be found in poetry anthologies and you are often called a “poet”, but the genre is never indicated on your books. Why?
Claude Royet-Journoud : My books consist only of a single text, the genre of which cannot be defined. It’s as much a question of narration as fable or poem. It’s a book that I write, and I feel that the notion of genre obscures the book as such. If I don’t want a genre to be indicated, it’s because the book, always assuming that one considers oneself to have written a book, is undefinable. In fact, I think “theatre” is the most exact description of my books, in that they are concerned with characters - a bit like a detective story. I might add, quoting Klossowski : “The words assume postures.”
M.B. : How do you interpret the attacks on you?
C.R-J. : I’d prefer to say that reading, like writing, is necessarily “ideological”. If I investigate the motives behind the “paternalistic” review in L’Humanité”, I must admit, with sadness, that it strikes me as reactionary. Not because I am attacked! But because of its assumptions. In effect, the poem is considered as a hermetic object on the page, the book as something finished, completed ; whereas “modernity”, I think, has born witness to the fact that books are open-ended. To structure a book is to seek a disequilibrium where it is necessarily incomplete. You can understand that the ideology underlying this kind of review, the assumption that a book is completed, absolute, , the refusal to consider a book as its very volume, creates a non-existant dichotomy between blank space and text and denies the existence of a mental space which is, moreover, never free of violence.
M.B. : “The notion of obstacle” . . . the title might seem enigmatic.
C.R-J. : What interested me was the etymology of the word “obstacle” to stand before - my position with respect to my work table, the world in a kind of tragic flatness from which a scene begins to emerge, where evrything is represented, imitated: a miniature theatre, if you like . . . which explains why this word haunts me. I must also confess that the etymological relation between “obstacle” and “scandale” pleases me . . . The title should, then, be seen in relation to “Le renversement”, with which it is linked and from which it is separated: It is, in fact, between these two books that a “blank space” can be found, if one insists on it!
M.B. : The blank space which constitutes the effort to write and which is within the text . . .
C.R-J. : Yes . . . In the same sense that it constitutes thought. In order to become act, thought must first be arrested.
M.B. : You spoke about narrative. This is perhaps not evident to the reader.
C.R-J. : I think that there is a narrative, as I said - a plot as in a detective story - in the sense that there is always a search for a missing body, an absent entity, in my books. To state it concisely, there is an accident which permits legibility. How can I explain it? It’s rather like the restoration of a painting when a crack in the surface reveals another image underneath. At this point the real investigation begins. In order to find out what the nature or state of the hidden image is, the restorer scratches the surface in various places, provoking himself those accidents which permit the image to be deciphered. He needs to know if the covered painting is complete in order to proceed…Should he efface or restore the surface image, uncover or blot out the second image. It is not, in fact, a question of choosing between a real but imperfect surface image and a second image which is virtual but solicited. What counts is the “passage” from the surface accident to the virtual image; as the accident changes position, the investigation becomes integrated into the surface, which as a consequence becomes self-narrating. It is not surface and depth - old and new image, which defines my work, but this mobility constituted into the book.
M.B. : You concentrate oh certain words which seem to be the “real” characters in your books . . .
C.R-J. : Yes . . .but only some words (he, she, they, image, sentence, hand, voice sleep, cold, etc.) . . . I work, construct my texts, from the common-place. The fact that I try to narrate with ordinary language is criticised and, at the same time, misunderstood. Let me add that this “investigation” is not a chore, but an activity which excludes neither passion nor emotion. And I don’t mean this metaphorically. It’s exactly this investigation that eliminates the metaphors from my texts.
M.B. : Can you explain how you work, how you arrive at a finished book . . .
C.R-J. : Each of my books is composed of a number of sequences, five to ten pages in length. Each sequence starts out as four to five hundred pages of prose. That’s why it takes me about six years to produce a book! All of this is contained in large notebooks. I write prose texts on the right-hand pages from which I later extract certain elements. These are noted on the left-hand pages. The object of this effort is enter into the mental space proper to the act of writing. This stage can last a long time, until it “gels”. When the text finally takes form, it is distributed over several pages. It is essential to the narrative that the text circulates across facing pages as well as recto-verso; even the volume of the book itself is important. If you will, I always write from within the book, from the very start. Later, when I already have a few pages of text, a sketch, I begin to work on the language, neutralising the text. How? By tracking down and suppressing metaphor, assonance, alliteration - to see what narrative emerges -what appears, embodying this language within a language.
M.B. : A language which is flat, flattened . . .
C.R-J. : Of course. Moreover, it’s this “platitude” which seems to me to incite violence, which is certainly problematic and for which I am criticised unwittingly. The problem resides in literalness (not in metaphor) , the need to to measure language by its “minimal” units of meaning. For me, Eluard’s verse “The earth is blue like an orange” can be exhausted, it annihilates itself in an excess of meaning. Whereas Marcelin Pleynet’s “the far wall is a whitewashed wall” is and remains, by its very exactness, and evidently within its context, paradoxically indeterminate as to meaning and so will always “vehiculate” narrative. This might be experienced painfully.
Translated by Merle Ruberg
And a poem:
The Narrative of Lars Fredrickson
she crosses over
from one border to another
in that named space
of the neutral
on the pressing spread
where interrogation and rest
...near the muscle
an infinitive pain
relay: the dejected sense
that a sheaf beats
over the interval, the sum
relay: ...OF A FIGURE DISPERSING VERTICALITY
relay: simulacrum of a body
the perishing of a scene
relay: “my words in your mouth”
that a resemblance disseminates
trans. Joseph Simas