This is where my thoughts pool as a reservoir of miscellany and peculiarity. It's actually not my brain that's dripping -- it's my soul that's leaking.
It's really no big deal.
Monday, August 12, 2013
poet Adam Zagajewski -- I have my reasons
Adam Zagajewski's poem "In Strange Towns" impresses me as a very fine poem. I have reasons for being impressed (after the poem). In Strange Towns
for Zbigniew Herbert
In strange towns there is an unknown joy, the cold bliss of a new glance. Yellow-plastered tenements where the sun climbs like a nimble spider exist, yet not for me. Not for me are the town-hall, port, jail, and courthouse built. The sea flows through the town in a salty tide, sinking cellars and verandas. At a street market, pyramids of apples stand for the eternity of one afternoon. And even suffering isn’t really mine; a local idiot mumbles in a foreign tongue, and the despair of a lonely girl in a café resembles a patch of canvas in a poorly lit museum. Huge flags of trees flutter as in familiar places, and pieces of the same lead-weights are sewn to the hems of sheets, and to dreams, and to imagination, which is homeless and wild.
This poem delivers a fully realized artistic experience.
"In Strange Towns" flows, from beginning to end, with comprehensibility. Most poems take place within the vacuum of insular expression -- the reader hasn't much of a clue what's going on or why. Not so this extraordinary and generous poem. We walk beside the poet, fully alert to the textures and wonders of this strange town's milieu. Since we are there, we aren't on the outside trying to mentally or emotionally claw our way through the obscurantism one finds in most poems. Part of comprehension has to do with participation. If the reader is viewed by the poet as an almost superfluous element, the reader's willingness to identify with the written experience is compromised. The sure sign of an incomprehensible poem is an attitude and atmosphere within it of dull self-absorption -- you can't really comprehend what is solipsistic, therefore militantly uninteresting.
Zagajewski' vision here is infused with the kind of poetic imagination one rarely discovers in a poem. Cadence can be a method and indication of imagining, can instill expectation and a quality of the haunted marvelous. As the poem speaks itself through this town, pulse is measured out in the suspenseful prosody of fascinated being. Imagination is also and decisively conveyed here through subtle metaphor: At a street market, pyramids of apples stand for the eternity of one afternoon. And even suffering isn’t really mine; a local idiot mumbles in a foreign tongue, and the despair of a lonely girl in a café resembles a patch of canvas in a poorly lit museum.
Many great poems are vivified by a spirit of otherness. Whether owing to physical exile or a sense of psychological dislocation (disorientation), a poem becomes strange -- therefore artistic -- when the poet is confronted with alien substances, unfamiliar forms, spiritual contrasts. The emergence of otherness -- the exotic -- from a poem's material engenders a sympathetic involvement for the reader in this drama of the peculiar. Poems that take place within conventional, moribund spaces of experience and emotion are less likely to be compelling works of art.
Finally, "In Strange Towns" is an adventure toward epiphany. Poems that don't lead to a new intuition or perception meander around, then run out of steam. This poem is quietly mapped onto the palimpsest of an organic significance. It obsessively and poignantly traipses the ground of potential meaning until eventually arriving at insight: Huge flags of trees flutter as in familiar places, and pieces of the same lead-weights are sewn to the hems of sheets, and to dreams, and to imagination, which is homeless and wild.
Poems that inspire one, again and again, to written appraisal and appreciation are poems echoing the qualities (my reasons) of works in an aesthetic tradition. I know I've come upon a natural talent when I desire exposure to more of that artist's work.