Thursday, May 27, 2010

Poet Beats Fire at Its Own Game!

Some thoughts on listening to the recent PoemTalk on Williams' "Red Wheelbarrow:" I was sitting over the piano last night trying to compose something to Williams' "Descent Beckons" passage of Paterson, with Morton Feldman's Triadic Memories playing in the background as possible inspiration. Everything I tried sounded no better than something you might hear on an overwrought PBS documentary on Williams (even though the one that does exist is good!) And as I started to ventriloquize Williams' patter-song in lieu of some, again overwrought, "new music"-type vocalization, I started to think, "where have I heard this before?" Sure enough, that part of Paterson is among his recordings on PennSound, where there is not one but NINE different versions of "The Descent," compared to four for "Red Wheelbarrow," and five for "This is Just to Say." So we may have to reassess what we consider to be Williams' chestnuts.
As well, I noticed that Williams uses the word "glaze" with a particular valence in Book III of Paterson that in some ways makes it a pointed response to the "glazed with rain/ water" of the RW: "An old bottle, mauled by the fire/ gets a new glaze, the glass warped/ to a new distinction, reclaiming the/ undefined" (118) This aspect of the bottle, transforming from sand to glass then into some "new distinction" by a less controlled, destructive fire puts it in contrast to the wheelbarrow that is glazed with rain water almost decoratively, highlighting the quiddity of the wheelbarrow with a special, almost coy, atmospheric effect. However, by this point in Paterson, Williams is less delicate with the "beautiful thing." In Books III and IV, it is not the material object that the poet must "amen" ("selah!" "so be it!") but rather the transformative energies that destroy and metamorphize matter. Release the Gamma Rays! So, taking Grenier as his invitation to replace the word "chickens" with something more piquant, how about:

so much depends
the red
glazed with
beside the white

My last Red Wheelbarrow reflection is brought to us by the gods of spam, through my Yahoo Pipes Williams/Paterson device. Here, a reflection on the RW, undoubtedly ripped from another, better formatted page, buttressed with posts on Adidas second quarter earnings and BEKO washing machine quality problems.
The name of the blog is "Letter," and somewhat bathetically, we are told that "Letter has'nt any friends yet." The tags for Williams' classic imagistic haiku . . . well we might as well just replace his original words with them, because they are . . . well, close enough . . .

and balls buy

clothes coat

friendly hamper


mannequin metal

rack racks

riding shelf

toy warehouse

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

--the being taut, balanced between eternities

The newspaper accounts of tightrope walkers DeLave, Harry Leslie and Geo. Dobbs, mentioned in Book III that I can find are not as interesting as this description of a promised future event, and the aftermath of one of the DeLave walks across the falls:
"The performance was now concluded. DE LAVE gave notice of a repetition of the feat on Monday next, when he would walk with peach baskets tied to his feet, stand on his head, and perform other 'terrific feats.' A large number of pickpockets were on the ground, and one man, ISRAEL MONSON, a butcher doing business in Main-street, lost his pocket-book containing the avails of his week's business -- about $115."
In the following description of a walk by Harry Leslie (Williams found a much better one, which maybe shows how his archivalism trumps that of instant digital access), we see how his walk, the fall of Sarah Cumming, and Sam Patch's leap, all are memorialized by a "blasted pine"--an evocative image that I don't think Williams uses, perhaps because it might have resonances with the landscapes of Romanticism.

No search brings up Geo. Dobbs, except a software developer's site with a weird article titled "Dr. Dobbs: Funambulism and the Perpetual Tension of Software Development," which uses the tightrope as an extended metaphor for maintaining tension between old and new "platforms": "The innovation that will help us regain our balance as developers is not just in this deeper dive, but in treating the entire software system holistically. It won't be sufficient to just analyze the source, or the assembly process, or the tests that exercise the software. We'll control the tension with technologies that are not just process oriented (like the current ALM suite), but with tools that fundamentally understand and communicate what's happening in a software system at various stages of development. This will enable us to optimize our coding and testing to improve software quality, as well as the productivity of every developer. After that, the crowds will cheer as we reach our platform, ready for the next development challenge to present itself." Yes, but can you do it cooking an omelet, in female attire, while doing the "Washerwoman's Frolic"?

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Aztec Astral Glitch

This time reading Book II, I picked up on this mental wormhole that takes us from Garret Mountain to a similar place in Mexico, Chapultepec or "grasshopper hill." It seems like he refers to this statue, or ones like it, when he talks about the "grasshopper of red basalt, boot long . . . a matt stone solicitously instructed/ to bear away some rumor/ of the living presence that has preceded it, out-precedented its breath . " The rumor, we can imagine, may refer to grasshopper's signature sound, and Williams may be reflecting on the appropriateness of a representation without this sound. However, that its "wings do not unfold for flight--," for Williams "no need!" Remember, this passage occurs after the first appearance of the references to that which he approaches "concretely." I had been thinking this time around that, contrary to perhaps more wishful interpretations of Williams' relation to the concrete, that in Book II he conceptually places the concrete in subordinate relation to the vitality of the workers in the park, and thus seems to denigrate the concrete, even though the workers are boisterously rude. Yet he goes on to describe how the "mind's wings," connected to the artist's hand, and faced with the unyielding rock, seem, in this odd game of rock-paper-scissors to beat out any cheap vitality. This reference may serve to clarify the cryptic lines "Love is a stone endlessly in flight;" "the stone lives, the flesh dies;" as well, perhaps his reference to "window-eyes that front the whole head" (see pic above) implying the immortal insomnia of artistic vision, of the "Love [that] combat[s] sleep."
A big question for me is how this passage was meant to be read without the possibility of a quick Internet search? As an astral residue in memory? How legible is it meant to be?

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