Monday, October 01, 2007

The Thing Itself!

In July, I took birdwatchers and filmmakers Michael Gitlin and Jackie Goss to Garret Mountain and Rifle Camp Park to look and listen for some fine feathered friends and talk about the references Williams makes to them. Unfortunately, it was too late in the day and too hot to see any wildlife, and Rifle Camp Park’s nature center—an unexpected find—was closed. If you go early enough the mountain teems with bounding doe and wild turkeys, in addition to birds of many stripe.
We discussed, again, the “realite!” section of Book V (p. 207), and I asked them whether bird mnemonics might help one understand what Williams was getting at, if he got at it at all—since as always, he seems to be to showing us the gap between the “getting at” and the “it.” There’s a kind of archaism to bird mnemonics, akin to the language of flowers, that responds to a worldview in which a deep appreciation of nature is more a function of the literary than the scientific. (I kind of like the illusion of objectivity that this form of bird sound analysis gives!) But there is still the dark wall behind the mirror of nature, making Williams wonder whether our apperception of it, literary or otherwise, is fundamentally flawed. Is “the art/ with which these flowers have been/put down . . . to be trusted” (213)? Need the brain “be grafted/ on a better root” (214)?

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