Mis-Identifying Wildflowers

…because I am often wrong.

The Conversation of Prayer

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The conversation of prayers about to be said
By the child going to bed and the man on the stairs
Who climbs to his dying love in her high room,
The one not caring to whom in his sleep he will move
And the other full of tears that she will be dead,

Turns in the dark on the sound they know will arise
Into the answering skies from the green ground,
From the man on the stairs and the child by his bed.
The sound about to be said in the two prayers
For the sleep in a safe land and the love who dies

Will be the same grief flying. Whom shall they calm?
Shall the child sleep unharmed or the man be crying?
The conversation of prayers about to be said
Turns on the quick and the dead, and the man on the stair
To-night shall find no dying but alive and warm

In the fire of his care his love in the high room.
And the child not caring to whom he climbs his prayer
Shall drown in a grief as deep as his made grave,
And mark the dark eyed wave, through the eyes of sleep,
Dragging him up the stairs to one who lies dead.

Dylan Thomas

Written by nerdogical

January 6, 2011 at 6:51 am

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‘This May Be What I Needed’ Thursday: Argument by Elizabeth Bishop

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Days that cannot bring you near
or will not,
Distance trying to appear
something more obstinate,
argue argue argue with me
endlessly
neither proving you less wanted nor less dear.

Distance: Remember all that land
beneath the plane;
that coastline
of dim beaches deep in sand
stretching indistinguishably
all the way,
all the way to where my reasons end?

Days: And think
of all those cluttered instruments,
one to a fact,
canceling each other’s experience;
how they were
like some hideous calendar
“Compliments of Never & Forever, Inc.”

The intimidating sound
of these voices
we must separately find
can and shall be vanquished:
Days and Distance disarrayed again
and gone…

Written by nerdogical

October 1, 2010 at 7:30 am

Sorting it out.

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Today, I’m making a decision. I’m changing my life around. I can’t keep going this way. More to come, let’s hope.

Written by nerdogical

September 9, 2010 at 10:32 pm

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Cross-purposes.

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The Junior Project has been altered slightly, and so before being grilled with questions, we have to give a ten to fifteen minute presentation at the beginning of our basic concentration. Along with the annotated bibliography, we are asked to write about our focus. The following is the rough draft of mine, and I am posting it in hopes of finding holes in my thought through outside sources. So, please help me by commenting or observing or what have you, keeping in mind that this is supposed to be fairly basic, but if I miss a big part of the picture in what I’m writing, it would be nice to have someone point it out to me.
———————————————————
Critics often use “a difficult balance” to quote Richard Wilbur when talking about his work. While it is true that Wilbur’s poetry is crafted and deliberate,this statement does not aptly dig into the depth of his aesthetic. Wilbur’s poem “A Voice from Under the Table” states, “I take this world for better or for worse,” and this line seems to me a deeper way of looking at Wilbur’s imaginative process and poetic disposition. It is a marriage vow to the world— his interaction with the world is a similar celebratory and creative act— thorough an imaginative love, there is an incarnate transcendence.

Before moving on, there is a contrast to Wilbur that I would like to briefly discuss before going further, the “public quarrel with the aesthetics of Edgar Allen Poe,” that Wilbur points out in his essay, “On My Own Work” as a general tension throughout his poetry. Wilbur understands Poe’s work as extremely allegoric and world renouncing in order to get to a higher realm of simple dream and imagination. For example, Wilbur points to Poe speaking of a “sea” in a poem, taking the sea and rejecting it by stating “a sea with no shore” for a “sea with no shore” is one that we cannot actually experience and only exists in the imagination. The end of poetry for Poe is not to express experience, but to reach a level higher than one that can be attained in this world.

For Wilbur, however, the imagination is not an end, but a means. His imaginative process is one that works in the world, focus’ on the “things’ selves” as “The Beautiful Changes” states, and that through metaphor and simile— which is the highest poetic act— discloses a new and imaginative understanding of objects, experience, and the world. For example, in the poem “An Event” there is an argument with the lyric and it’s capacity for truly conveying an experience.

As if a cast of grain leapt back to the hand,
A landscapeful of small black birds, intent
On the far south, convene at some command
At once in the middle of the air, at once are gone
With headlong and unanimous consent
From the pale trees and fields they settled on.

What is an individual thing? They roll
Like a drunken fingerprint across the sky!
Or so I give their image to my soul
Until, as if refusing to be caught
In any singular vision of my eye,
Or the nets and cages of my thought,

They tower up, shatter, and madden space
With their divergences, are each alone
Swallowed from sight, and leave me in this place
Shaping these images to make them stay:
Meanwhile, in some formation of their own,
They fly me still, and steal my thoughts away.

Delighted with myself and with the birds,
I set them down and give them leave to be.
It is by words and the defeat of words,
Down sudden vistas of the vain attempt,
That for a flying moment one may see
By what cross-purposes the world is dreamt.

There is a tension in this poem between the actual event and the lyric used to convey it. The first metaphor, “As if a cast of grain leapt back to the hand,” defines the rest of the poem, because when a cast of grain is thrown in the air and caught again, a few grains fall away. A lyric, like the hand, can only contain so much of the actual event in it’s form. The lines, “Shaping these images to make them stay,” and “Or so I give their image to my soul” displays the difficulty in the poetic process. The “cross-purposes” in which “the world is dreamt,” is the interaction with the world with the imagination and the act of “making” metaphor.

In understanding Wilbur’s idea of metaphor, the poem “Lying” delves deep into the implications of a lie as a type of metaphor. “Isn’t it odd that a thing is most itself when likened,” also stated in the poem displays this idea that a deeper understanding about a thing or object comes through by metaphor. Wilbur’s understanding of this is most evident through his writing on riddles. He is makes a case for the riddle as getting us out of habitual classification because we have an imaginative tendency toward making similar comparisons that fails to convey a deeper understanding. The riddle, for Wilbur, is a peculiar way of looking at something that presents an object in a completely new light, therefore disclosing a truth to what is already there.

The importance of metaphor and language is best conveyed in Wilbur’s use of the Garden of Eden. In “Lying” he references the garden as, “…where we first mislaid/Simplicity of wish and will, forgetting/Out of what cognate splendor all things came/To take their scattering names.” This desire to name is one that is innate in man and Wilbur’s use of words and the etymology of words points to an initial inclination in man. For Wilbur, language and nature renew themselves similarly—both have always been, but constantly renew themselves.

Wilbur’s poetry, at heart, is an act of creative love working in the world that discloses the truth about a thing, but Wilbur does not merely bring out truths, but praises what is uncovered. He is a poet of praise and in praising he celebrates the objects and experiences that convey higher truths. It is love that calls us to the things of this world. In negating Poe’s aesthetic, he imaginatively emerges himself in the world, looking at something and understanding it. For Wilbur, celebration and praise follows his loving understanding of the world through the imagination.

Why pay so much attention to Wilbur’s use of metaphor and imagination? These things do not seem like new ideas—Aristotle spoke of the importance of metaphor and Plato communicated through Allegory—so why bother seeing these things as distinctly Wilbur? With the rise of different literary movements, where the use and understanding of these things is thrown away for the sake of some kind of purity, Wilbur is distinct in his poetry. By his use of tradition and understanding of tradition, he is also enriching and enlivening truths that have been innately a part of man.

Written by nerdogical

April 18, 2010 at 8:48 pm

The whole world ministers to you as the theatre of your Love.

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“You are as prone to love as the sun is to shine; it being the most natural and delightful employment of the soul of Man: without which you are dark and miserable. Consider therefore the extent of Love, its vigour and excellency. For certainly he that delights not in Love makes vain the universe, and is of necessity to himself the greatest burden. The whole world ministers to you as the theatre of your Love. It sustains you and all objects that you may continue to love them. Without which it were better for you to have no being. Life without objects is sensible emptiness, and that is a greater misery than death or nothing. Objects without Love are the delusion of life.”

From Centuries of Meditations by Thomas Traherne.

I’ll write a reflection once I have one, about the context of this excerpt and Wilbur’s “A World Without Objects is a Sensible Emptiness” which is below.

The tall camels of the spirit
Steer for their deserts, passing the last groves loud
With the sawmill shrill of the locust, to the whole honey of the
arid
Sun. They are slow, proud,

And move with a stilted stride
To the land of sheer horizon, hunting Traherne’s
Sensible emptiness, there where the brain’s lantern-slide
Revels in vast returns.

O connoisseurs of thirst,
Beasts of my soul who long to learn to drink
Of pure mirage, those prosperous islands are accurst
That shimmer on the brink

Of absence; auras, lustres,
And all shinings need to be shaped and borne.
Think of those painted saints, capped by the early masters
With bright, jauntily-worn

Aureate plates, or even
Merry-go-round rings. Turn, O turn
From the fine sleights of the sand, from the long empty oven
Where flames in flamings burn

Back to the trees arrayed
In bursts of glare, to the halo-dialing run
Of the country creeks, and the hills’ bracken tiaras made
Gold in the sunken sun,

Wisely watch for the sight
Of the supernova burgeoning over the barn,
Lampshine blurred in the steam of beasts, the spirit’s right
Oasis, light incarnate.
If anyone has anything to say, please do. I appreciate all commentary, as my JP is on the 22.

The tall camels of the spirit
Steer for their deserts, passing the last groves loud
With the sawmill shrill of the locust, to the whole honey of the
arid
Sun. They are slow, proud,

And move with a stilted stride
To the land of sheer horizon, hunting Traherne’s
Sensible emptiness, there where the brain’s lantern-slide
Revels in vast returns.

O connoisseurs of thirst,
Beasts of my soul who long to learn to drink
Of pure mirage, those prosperous islands are accurst
That shimmer on the brink

Of absence; auras, lustres,
And all shinings need to be shaped and borne.
Think of those painted saints, capped by the early masters
With bright, jauntily-worn

Aureate plates, or even
Merry-go-round rings. Turn, O turn
From the fine sleights of the sand, from the long empty oven
Where flames in flamings burn

Back to the trees arrayed
In bursts of glare, to the halo-dialing run
Of the country creeks, and the hills’ bracken tiaras made
Gold in the sunken sun,

Wisely watch for the sight
Of the supernova burgeoning over the barn,
Lampshine blurred in the steam of beasts, the spirit’s right
Oasis, light incarnate.

Written by nerdogical

April 8, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Making and the Imagination–a blurb of JP thoughts.

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Lying
by Richard Wilbur

To claim, at a dead party, to have spotted a grackle,
When in fact you haven’t of late, can do no harm.
Your reputation for saying things of interest
Will not be marred, if you hasten to other topics,
Nor will the delicate web of human trust
Be ruptured by that airy fabrication.
Later, however, talking with toxic zest
Of golf, or taxes, or the rest of it
Where the beaked ladle plies the chuckling ice,
You may enjoy a chill of severance, hearing
Above your head the shrug of unreal wings.
Not that the world is tiresome in itself:
We know what boredom is: it is a dull
Impatience or a fierce velleity,
A champing wish, stalled by our lassitude
To make or do. In the strict sense, of course,
We invent nothing, merely bearing witness
To what each morning brings again to light:
Gold crosses, cornices, astonishment
Of panes, the turbine-vent which natural law
Spins on the grill-end of the diner’s roof,
Then grass and grackles or, at the end of town
In sheen-swept pastureland, the horse’s neck
Clothed with its usual thunder, and the stones
Beginning now to tug their shadows in
And track the air with glitter. All these things
Are there before us; there before we look
Or fail to look; there to be seen or not
By us, as by the bee’s twelve thousand eyes,
According to our means and purposes.
So too with strangeness not to be ignored,
Total eclipse or snow upon the rose,
And so with that more rare conception, nothing.
What is it, after all, but something missed?
It is the water of a dried-up well
Gone to assail the cliffs of Labrador.
There is what galled the arch-negator, sprung
From Hell to probe with intellectual sight
The cells and heavens of a given world
Which he could take but as another prison:
Small wonder that, pretending not to be,
He drifted through the bar-like boles of Eden
In a black mist low creeping, dragging down
And darkening with moody self-absorption
What, when he left it, lifted and, if seen
From the sun’s vantage, seethed with vaulting hues.
Closer to making than the deftest fraud
Is seeing how the catbird’s tail was made
To counterpoise, on the mock-orange spray,
Its light, up-tilted spine; or, lighter still,
How the shucked tunic of an onion, brushed
To one side on a backlit chopping-board
And rocked by trifling currents, prints and prints
Its bright, ribbed shadow like a flapping sail.
Odd that a thing is most itself when likened:
The eye mists over, basil hints of clove,
The river glazes toward the dam and spills
To the drubbed rocks below its crashing cullet,
And in the barnyard near the sawdust-pile
Some great thing is tormented. Either it is
A tarp torn loose and in the groaning wind
Now puffed, now flattened, or a hip-shot beast
Which tries again, and once again, to rise.
What, though for pain there is no other word,
Finds pleasure in the cruellest simile?
It is something in us like the catbird’s song
From neighbor bushes in the grey of morning
That, harsh or sweet, and of its own accord,
Proclaims its many kin. It is a chant
Of the first springs, and it is tributary
To the great lies told with the eyes half-shut
That have the truth in view: the tale of Chiron
Who, with sage head, wild heart, and planted hoof
Instructed brute Achilles in the lyre,
Or of the garden where we first mislaid
Simplicity of wish and will, forgetting
Out of what cognate splendor all things came
To take their scattering names; and nonetheless
That matter of a baggage-train surprised
By a few Gascons in the Pyrenees—
Which having worked three centuries and more
In the dark caves of France, poured out at last
The blood of Roland, who to Charles his king
And to the dove that hatched the dovetailed world
Was faithful unto death, and shamed the Devil.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about words. This poem, “Lying” is one that I often turn to when my mind drifts from objects, perception, and what it means to name.

A champing wish, stalled by our lassitude
To make or do. In the strict sense, of course,
We invent nothing, merely bearing witness
To what each morning brings again to light

In the stanza above, the ideas of “to make or do” and how we truly make nothing, but try to understand by “bearing witness.” Hopkins talks about objects as being spoken. Our own faculty of language is insufficient, we do not make the world but can only speak of it. We can only call a rock a rock, we cannot make that rock, but by naming it, we are able to understand what is already there. It is “Odd that a thing is most itself when likened” but true that our metaphors, similes, are what we make and do in unfolding this world. I’ve been very captured by the idea of something unfolding–it is disclosed, all is there to begin with (like with the Mind-Reader “…unfolding there/Like paper flowers in a water-glass”) and it is through words that we unfold things.The grackle is something made in language. Through the absence of the object, but the articulation of it, it becomes present and real. Through the imagination we disclose the reality of things and by the use of metaphor and simile we understand them. Wilbur said himself, “The poem assumes that the essential poetic act is the discovery of resemblance , the making of metaphor, and that, the world being one thing, all metaphor tends toward the truth.”

The idea of the Garden, the Fall, hearkens back to man’s desire to name–“…where we first mislaid/Simplicity of wish and will, forgetting/Out of what cognate splendor all things came/To take their scattering names…” but I am still unsure how this thought ties into my previous ideas in a fluid way, but I think I am on to something.

I want to close with the last stanza of “An Event” because I think that there is something to this idea of “cross-purposes” and what it means to dream the world.

It is by words and the defeat of words,
Down sudden vistas of the vain attempt,
That for a flying moment one may see
By what cross-purposes the world is dreamt.

Written by nerdogical

March 30, 2010 at 7:47 pm

It is by words and the defeat of words

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I haven’t touched this since Florence. Florence? It feels like years.

Anyways, I am back at school (Thanks be to God–I owe the school so much money, but they have shown me such grace) and have been promoted to Junior status. I’m loving Humanities with Dr. Fahey–Xenophon and Thucydides, along with my majors course Short Story (Scottish ballads and cookies made by Mrs. Fahey’s daughter…what’s not to like thus far?) and have begun my semester of in-depth study of the man I love. I suppose this could be mistaken for Joseph, but I was actually referring to Richard Wilbur. Hopefully I can post on all of the insights or what have you, but I can’t promise anything. Remember that whole “I’ll update everyday.” Haha, me too.

Anyways, I’m using this as a diversion from the seventy lines of Latin that needs to be translated in…an hour? I spent all day with it yesterday…all day, not a lot of goofing around, just pure Latin…and I’m not done. UGH. But thinking of it in a positive light, all the really great thinkers we read were in some way classicists. Literature, philosophy, theology, political science…most of them had some background in Latin or Greek. So, if I want to think great, I have to translate seventy lines of Dulcitius. And by that I mean, have an understanding of Latin (which in reading my prose, you can probably tell that I don’t.)

Aside from that,  I have my own room this semester…it’s so wonderful to have a little personal haven all to myself. I bought a mirror that says “Wines by the Glass” on the bottom to take up wall space from removing the top bunk in my room, along with these two pictures of a boy and a girl that reminds me of Cranford everytime I look at them.

In front of me it a picture of the Aps in Santa Maria in Trastevere and it warms my heart to see it and think “I went there almost everyday.” As much grief and bitterness as I came back from that semester with, there are some nostalgic tendencies about the city itself that makes me think “Ahh, I guess it was worth the weeks of depression.”

It’s so good to be back with people who are loving and supporting. A place where I can vent if I need to, goof around if I need to, and not worry about constantly being judged by people. I would like to say I’m one of those “I don’t care what you think” people, but after three and a half months of feeling like someone is negatively perceiving everything you do, it really affects you in ways that I’m only now purging myself of. I need to learn a balance between loving people and realizing that loving them doesn’t mean it will be returned.

But golly, it’s good to be back at a place where it is.

Written by nerdogical

February 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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