Friday, November 03, 2006

About meaning

Should be working, but as always, there are better things to do. Really loved this quote by the curmudgeonly William Logan on today's Poetry Foundation blog:

" I don’t look to the poem’s content for the meanings of life, or for consolation in the losses life demands. I find solace in the language itself, in the way meaning plays through syntax and form, in the blink of wordplay or the cocked gesture of the well-turned phrase. I don’t say there isn’t meaning to be had… the life carries the language, not the other way around. The language doesn’t hold the meaning; the language is the meaning."

Hey, I would be terrified to have him review my book, but I totally agree with him here.

7 comments:

Beverly said...

it's hard to imagine someone welcoming a review by Logan. Smart as he is, his impulse to demean knocks him out. I don't usually even like to read his reviews.

I like where he's going with this statement too. He pushes the distinction between language and meaning a little too hard, as others have done. But, hey...

Diane K. Martin said...

Beverly, I have to admit I *like* reading Logan. Especially when he's talking about someone like Glück, who is revered by everyone and whose charms i'venever been able to see. But, as I said, I'd hate to be on the receiving end of his rapier wit.

Beverly said...

I love Glück. We have to talk about this.

Robert said...

That reminds me of something Elton Glaser says in an essay on Hart Crane, from a wonderful new issue of Field that features Crane:

“But however much he claimed to be writing from design, I don’t go to his poetry for architectural ingenuity or strict lines of reasoning. I read him for the gorgeous collision of syllables, for the sensual, intuitive linkage of his imagery, for his ‘New thresholds, new anatomies!’ I don’t feel that Crane is deliberately evasive or willfully impervious to paraphrase. He just has higher priorities than most poets. He’s a true believer, and what he believes is that ‘In the beginning was the Word.’”

On the other hand, anyone who agrees with that should probably read Crane's The Bridge and see if, now matter how much you love individual lines, you can make it through the book without putting it down in frustration. Great language by itself may not quite be enough.

Diane K. Martin said...

Beverly, I think may be a matter of temperament, re Glück's style. I'm not saying there's anything *wrong* with it, but it's cool, it's detached (I'm generalizing, I know -- and I've hardly read all of her stuff), but that's where she loses me.

Robert, I'm not saying I think that language can ignore meaning--wherever Logan comes down in this--I'm saying that for me the way the language works is key, and if I had to choose from the spectrum of What or How, my choice would be closer to How.

Beverly said...

But why have to make that choice? I keep wondering why such an either/or gets posed by anyone?

Diane K. Martin said...

Beverly, I don't think it's an either or -- except in very few cases. For the most part, it's a spectrum, and I can see where I land. Not that there aren't huge exceptions.