Sunday, October 23, 2011

"And are built again"

I wonder if there is really a reason to grieve the passing of this Platonic thing we have called Literature, with its periods, its crafts, its canons of major and minor “figures,” and, most precious, its faith that it is possible, as the critic W. K. Wimsatt once put it, for a work to “endure as a poetic monument.” There are at present few things more Ozymandian than the idea of a poetic monument. The “great works,” the classics, are themselves now “colossal wrecks,” and their only context is a culture “boundless and bare.” The respectful privilege we once reserved for a work like Shelley’s “Ozymandias” now seems like something from a past full of childish illusions. You can no longer refer to a work as a “classic,” as T. S. Eliot liked to put it, without provoking a kind of amused condescension, as if to say, “You don’t still believe in those, do you? It’s so 1950.” The narrative of the “Great Works” has lost its legitimacy, and we have lost our credulity.  --Curtis White, in Lapham's Quarterly

All things fall and are built again
--Yeats, "Lapis Lazuli"

I choose to be like a child in the face of Curtis White's essay. No kingdom worth being  part of can be entered in any other way... I put on the mantle of childlike innocence and the little wooden sword and shield.  Because I want to keep on pushing to the edge of what I have done in words and then beyond, again and again and again, enlarging a world made out of words.  If a few megalithic corporations of the world eat all publishers and all stores and even readers and writers, I will still keep right on dreaming a world and writing it down in words.  And in joy.

That I promise.

More to come...


  1. You are a fount of creativity my friend. A force of nature.

    That is one impressive catalogue of books, and I'm very proud to have played a bit-part in two of them.

  2. A beautiful oath, Marly. Keep on dreaming. I too am proud to have been a witness to your work.

  3. Hurray!

    I am only able to write because I've abandoned the idea of "greats," which paralyzed me. I can only write by thinking of what I am doing as writing letters (love-letters, for the most part, that being how I roll) to particular people, and to hell with posterity. But if thinking I was crafting well wrought urns made the process possible, I'd damn well think of it that way :-)

    It's not our responsibility, as poets and storytellers, to have correct critical views. Our job is to write poems and stories.

  4. What Clive said.
    if it weren't for the Internet, i never would have found/met/read Marvelous Marly--and a very long list of others--whose words have changed my life. Many of those words written by people whose words would never have made it to my local public library or independent bookseller.

  5. Aye, aye, as the others said!

    Someone once said that in visual art, it's all been done already, we can't do anything new. Rubbish.

  6. Clive,

    Clivean collaboration is wonderfully fun. And now we have shared in four books in all, counting your two 60th birthday books, and are going on a fifth. Amazing.

  7. Thanks, Robbi! I look forward to your upcoming entrance into the world of books.

  8. Dale: Selah!

    Yes, I am a great believer in keeping still and doing the work. And also in love being part of the root of what one makes.

  9. zephyr,

    Yes, I have a number of people on my list who may never have a book or an ebook, and yet I love to see what they are doing.

  10. marja-leena,

    One of the great wonders and great works of time is that it gives us new eyes to see and new subjects and materials to use.

    Those who have eyes to see, let them see...


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.