Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's the Economy, Stupid

In Williams’ Embodiment of Knowledge, he talks about the general notion of waste and excess as antithetical to “economy,” widely defined to include notions of the poetic. This assertion might strike those for whom writing poetry today is the closest thing to potlatch as patently silly. Even more silly, as always with Williams, is how he dovetails these insights with a general theory of womanhood:
And it is certain that purity which we require in woman is nothing more nor less either than the beautiful flower of the common plant, economy. And all that is manly—all doing, perseverence, daring, courage, all are nothing else than economy in their reduction, however we glamour them about. It is all: the set value, the single path, concentration of energy, each is economy of purpose which alone makes action beautiful. (187)
He even goes as far as to say that the reason that he stays with Floss, and does not cat around, “is that I am too lazy to go about for others. This is the sole reason.” (187) If laziness prevents him from being “divided by over multiplication,” Paterson eventually gives Floss the horns, since here he does engage multiplicity and challenge the economy of “one.” It makes sense that Paterson becomes a locus for these transgressions, since, as we have discussed earlier, it is the product of Alexander Hamilton’s “new” economy—a planned system that, in its disregard of the contours of natural energies, proved disastrous. And that, in his “elucidation by multiplicity,” he includes the excess of materials from archival sources, representing economies he can’t understand, an intractable “messiness” confounding the poet—finicky at heart, yet challenged by the cosmic imposition of an ontological lassitude. If, as he says earlier in Embodiment of Knowledge “[p]oems must be . . . considered as documents of men” (74), Paterson attempts to break this existential rationale for formal coherence in pursuit of a knowledge not necessarily in his own body. Or is this just his science-fictional sex-poem-fantasy? For, further down in “Waste and Use,” he muses on the possibility that if he were a river he could embrace multiplicity and, thus, manage to get around with more women. Maybe “in the year 1, 011, 000 A. D. we will be river large . . . I think in that case I could be content with a thousand women of proper assortment” (187). . . . a clear case of Passaic envy?

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