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[personal profile] proximoception
Much further into Harmonium. I love this book. It is the best book in the world some days.

"The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad" explains which and why. I felt a similar liberation when I talked myself into reading Kafka whenever that was - a second poet was added, so poetry was. Even Bishop has limits, can become (at times) another world of repeated days. Probably Harmonium could, but you know what?

It is pitched exactly and entirely at freeing those too closely pent in their being, those who have forgotten where voice can go. It's almost like it was written by someone following a non- ridiculous version of Poe's "Composition" essay, one working backwards from what's amazing in poetry to how that might be newly written down, rather than whatever bullshit's supposed to get us to "The Raven." Probably the way Harmonium would flag reread frequently, though, would be that the subject matter of all the examples in this model of how to make poetry is how-to-make-poetry. At times it's taken to such an extreme that it feels more like an illustrated kit for making your own how-to-make-poetry KIT. So don't drink more than four Harmonia per week, kids.

(Not that the fact that you can totally go as far with art-about-art artistically as you can with any other sort is not itself remarkably suggestive, and if not yet a clear part of the message here certainly becomes so later in Stevens. Well, clear as in camouflaged in standard Stevens "bric-a-brac" rather than forming a cloudier part of the lens through which he asks us to look, at first seemingly just to see how much bric-a-brac there can be.)

But if you haven't been reading, or haven't been reading right, as for whatever reason seems to have been true of me at most points in my life, Harmonium is perfect. It gives the whole, basic case, and nothing but the case, and in the most efficiently self-proving ways. And atomized! I love how atomized it is. Because that's exactly what you need when you've gone idiot. And memorable lines, and instant enigmas that are just teasing enough to keep you working (the answer is usually less than eight pages away, part of some similar neighboring molecule, when logic or memory happen to fail at the nonce). I'm sure many find it difficult, even nonsensical, but it is the easiest, clearest way into what isn't at all clear or easy (but's nonetheless worth it) I know of.

And so full of Shelley! Keats is big in a couple of the more famous bits, like Monocle and Morning, and Whitman's a sort of permeating absence (the person who wrote the even better, but less easified and atomized, Harmonium - the one for when your head's been unscrewed to the seeking point, for day five of the week and thereafter), but the Shelley is strong with this one. And made to eat Emerson's Nature whole, here:

To the One of Fictive Music

Sister and mother and diviner love,
And of the sisterhood of the living dead
Most near, most clear, and of the clearest bloom,
And of the fragrant mothers the most dear
And queen, and of diviner love the day
And flame and summer and sweet fire, no thread
Of cloudy silver sprinkles in your gown
Its venom of renown, and on your head
No crown is simpler than the simple hair.

Now, of the music summoned by the birth
That separates us from the wind and sea,
Yet leaves us in them, until earth becomes,
By being so much of the things we are,
Gross effigy and simulacrum, none
Gives motion to perfection more serene
Than yours, out of our imperfections wrought,
Most rare, or ever of more kindred air
In the laborious weaving that you wear.

For so retentive of themselves are men
That music is intensest which proclaims
The near, the clear, and vaunts the clearest bloom,
And of all the vigils musing the obscure,
That apprehends the most which sees and names,
As in your name, an image that is sure,
Among the arrant spices of the sun,
O bough and bush and scented vine, in whom
We give ourselves our likest issuance.

Yet not too like, yet not so like to be
Too near, too clear, saving a little to endow
Our feigning with the strange unlike, whence springs
The difference that heavenly pity brings.
For this, musician, in your girdle fixed
Bear other perfumes. On your pale head wear
A band entwining, set with fatal stones.
Unreal, give back to us what once you gave:
The imagination that we spurned and crave.

Of "13 Blackbirds" I best loved the last one and the icicles one, this time 'round. Probably they're always my favorites (--Which are yours?). Blackbirds and Fictive Music are not the most obvious influences on young Bishop, but I think they're damn close to decisive ones, given what I'm arguing. Luckily I don't need to prove that claim to put them to some kind of work.
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