Sunday, January 31, 2010

Olson on Melville on Democracy

Moby Dick as America--as production line, as industry; the common man in service to the madness of the leader--yes, this is our democracy.

"A whaleship reminded Melville of two things: (1) democracy had not rid itself of overlords; (2) the common man, however free, leans on a leader, the leader, however dedicated, leans on a straw."--Olson, Call Me Ishmael (in Ch. "Shakespeare, concluded")

From MD:
"Through these forms that certain sultanism of Ahab's brain became incarnate in an irresistible dictatorship.

"For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base." (ibid)

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Revelation

by William Bronk

My life has no shape; I live in an old house.
The deed says it's mine now. Well enough.
Even so, I had supposed--or not,
I find I don't know but I thought I supposed--

some shape would happen to impose itself
on the days, the nights, even on this house,
revealing it. I find I don't care
this didn't happen, and yet am surprised.

I haven't read enough Bronk to really know how to read this...this is a poet who had written poetry for 50 years and written prose that will stand alongside this. He ran his family's business.

The man's life had shape--some kind of shape. Did the poet's?--again it appears so.

Or is this a question of a shaping presence outside the self--expected, but in the end illusory. I thought, at the end of my life, that I would impose a shape on it by defining it a certain way "at this moment of thinking about it".

It is called, pointedly one supposes, The Revelation, it would be hard to not consider the fact that this is the final book of the New Testament. And so this in itself brings the religious to bear on the poem--I thought that God would come to me. That this life, these memories, would be given shape in reflection--a godly, goodly shape. A meaning. That this shape would be imposed and revealed. But no.

Odd to expect it? No, I think we're hard-wired to imagine this or at least culturally conditioned to think it plausible even if we are anti-theist.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Truce Is Possible--bits of/on Wm Bronk

From a Kay Ryan appreciation in Poetry:
Bronk is thinking and thinking, as purely as possible, about how we want—want not to be alone, want things to matter, want to feel that we are connected to reality. His poems are all about wanting and how there is no end to it. And about how whatever reality is, it is something we only know in the negative—by being constantly wrong about it.

From Metonymy as an Approach to a Real World:

Whether what we sense of this world
is the what of this world only, or the what
of which of several possible worlds
--which what?--something of what we sense
may be true, may be the world, what it is, what we sense.
For the rest, a truce is possible, the tolerance
of travelers, eating foreign foods, trying words
that twist the tongue, to feel that time and place,
not thinking that this is the real world.