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Friday, February 22, 2013

Common things

Clive Hicks-Jenkins interior art for THALIAD

An effective symbol, as a matter of fact, must almost always be based on something as dry, and as familiar as dust. In the long run, the symbolist celebrates the importance of the obvious--by making the obvious important. The great literary symbols have almost all been common things. --John Unterecker, William Butler Yeats, p. 40

So Yeats returns again and again to the moon in all her phases, the sun, the rose, the mask, the tower, the tree, and the bird. I'm thinking again of his great simplicity conjoined with a sense of great artifice, and all in the service of making a seamless edifice of poems.


That function is ultimately one of offering us not "meaning"--no symbol gives us that; it's the worst vehicle in the world for "meaning"--but instead the feeling of meaning, a far different thing, for the feeling of meaning is an undefined sense of order, of rightness, of congruence at the heart of things. --Unterecker, William Butler Yeats

That line sends me to Wallace Stevens and his "metaphysician" twanging on a wire in the dark, letting sounds pass through "sudden rightnesses, wholly / Containing the mind." The poem is a wholeness, the register of completion, a perfect symbol, or what Stevens calls the "finding of a satisfaction."


Here is but a snip of wild weather from Ch. 11, The Rebel Sky:

The roses blossomed on heat’s lattices
In blues no earthly rose could conjure up—
Great cabbage roses, bruising cumulus
With pearly dew that sluiced the prickled stems
And, sliding on cold streams within the air,
Vaulted from a moveable precipice
To slam from heights on wind-lashed surfaces
As lightning’s forests sprouted upside down.

Somewhere impossible to breathe and be,
Where cataracts are ring-tailed roarers seized
And then let go, where hail is grown from dust
Like instant pearls to rattle in the sky.
A power struck war hammers on the rose
And rock of anvil-clouds: the rain obscured,
Erased the land, ascended as a mist.

New visitors: For more on Thaliad, go here, or visit my Scribd site to read excerpts from my three 2012 books, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, The Foliate Head, and Thaliad. Review clips and information for those and my 2011 collection, The Throne of Psyche, can be found by clicking on the page tabs above.

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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.