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Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Here's the plan. I will write the book using a private blog. Any reader who is known to me personally can request permission to see the blog. What you get is private access to the book as it is being written. What I get is your objections and suggestions.

Here is my first idea. I define it as a poetic intuition. What I mean by this is not an intuition about poetry itself, but something that is obliquely relevant in an interesting way, that itself exemplifies a poetic vision of in or from everyday life or from an analogous art form.

I'll give a few examples:

Lluis Pasqual in his book about Lorca says that "Vamos a otro asunto" sounds different and has a different emotional force in an Andalusian accent. In Castilian accent it means "Let's change the subject" [shut up, stop talking about this!]. In Andalusian is means "Let's change the subject" [Don't worry, we've talked about this enough; it's all good.]

Another example: the way a person's profession makes a physical mark on their body. Someone hunched over a table, or the "carriage" of a women who's been in the military at a high rank, her sharpness of posture.

The way I can hear someone's voice when they are not present. I can play that voice in my head saying something with an exact intonation or inflection, without necessarily hearing the words.

The complexity of a situation: there is the movement of the pitcher's delivery to the mound, with its ritualistic stages, the interplay between pitcher and catcher, between pitcher and batter. The umpire is there too, like a shadow of the catcher. If there is a runner on first, the pitcher is involved in another three way interaction. The first baseman can catch his toss to tag out the runner. There is a first base umpire and first base coach visible as well. Watching this happen, the spectator then is absorbed in a complex rhythmic interplay, all relative to a context; how many strikes, balls, and outs are there, what is the score, what is at stake in this game.

You look at a Warhol soup can painting in person and it's much more painterly than you thought it would be. Not flat and commercial, but with a more "fine arts" vibe.

You see someone doing something easily that would be difficult for you. They are doing it faster but at the same time more carefully. You realize this can help your dexterity in a completely different activity, just by having seen this once.

So your assignment is to give me an example of your own. I will either say, yes, that's exactly the kind of thing I had in mind, or, no, your idea of the poetic intuition is different than mine. Or else, yes, that's something different, but it stretches my concept of the intuition in useful ways.


Leslie said...

I guess Bob and I are both signing up.

Have you read Underworld (DeLillo)? It has a lot of examples or instances of this intuition, I think -- and I do not just say so because of the baseball reference.

Jonathan said...

I read it but very long ago. I'll have to go back to it.

Bob Basil said...

Christmas comes early this year - sign me up. I look forward to reading your feedback and suggestions, Leslie.

Bob Basil said...

OK, I will give it a whirl:

A binary feeling for a span of time that is neither yes/no nor living/dead but this/that: Looking at the shiny saxophone expecting tingly fingers but finding one’s shallow breathing.

Jonathan said...

That's certainly filled with poetic insight of the tingly kind. I can't quite feel its specificity in the way you've expressed it. One that happened to me recently was putting the bass on my left knee and angling it up so that the neck was almost vertical. I thought it might be hard to learn, even though I could reach the first fret with a little stretch. But of course, I realized a few days later (!) that the bass should have been on the right knee. A minor dislocation in proprioception or spatial relations created a false problem. Your example might be that those two things, the fingers and the mouth / breath are unpredictable in the relation?

Bob Basil said...

There is a lot for me to rattle around in my brain regarding "poetic intuition." Really good way to start your book, Jonathan: Require the reader to make a leap of feeling/understanding essential for moving ahead to later sections. (I haven't landed from my leap yet!)

What I was trying to convey was the sudden realization, in my own body (hands, lungs, diaphragm), via my eyes, instigated by the shiny sax within view - as though it were my boss! - that I couldn't play it anymore, certainly not without learning new sounds with fainter breath. Old people create new forms for themselves. The "binary feeling for a span of time," suddenly absorbed throughout my body, instigates a scary urgency: I must find a new way to play, but can I?

Leslie said...

I guess I need to come up with a specific one from Underworld.

Also, I wrote a paper in graduate school on Baudelaire poetics, centered on Le peintre de la vie moderne but citing other things from salons. I called it "Poetry as gesture in the (art) criticism of Baudelaire," something like that. I keep thinking I should go back to that paper. The impression I had from what I read of B that quarter was that poems were verbal gestures, analogous to dance moves. The whole idea is not very well developed but I am convinced there is something in it.