To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
.......................................again
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reconfiguring Romanticism (19): Jeffrey Robinson’s Wordsworth Deformations

Selection from Wordsworth Day by Day: Reading His Work into Poetry Now, by Jeffrey C. Robinson. Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press, 2005.

[He writes] : This book is a diary that I kept for a year on the poetry of Wordsworth, mostly in diary format but at times breaking into a poetry of deformation or improvisation from Wordsworth’s own texts (with a few brief phrases from George Oppen’s Daybooks). Here the entry begins as diary-commentary on the quoted passage from The Prelude and then swings open into poetry.

November 20, 2002

Thus were my sympathies enlarged, and thus
Daily the common range of visible things
Grew dear to me: already I began
To love the sun; a boy I loved the sun,
Not as I since have loved him, as a pledge
And surety of our earthly life, a light
Which we behold and feel we are alive;
Not for his bounty to so many worlds—
But for this cause, that I had seen him lay
Its beauty on the morning hills, had seen
The western mountain touch his setting orb
In many a thoughtless hour, when from excess
Of happiness, my blood appeared to flow
For its own pleasure, and I breathed with joy.

Stammering: love the sun/loved the sun/ since have loved him

Moments of intense pressure in Wordsworthian blank verse in which memory of past made conscious and full of significance torques the sentences of the present—not recollected in tranquility, not a smooth surface of a stream. The passage is at once patient in its meandering elaboration, exploratory—poetics lines like a snake moving through the grass, or something that “creates itself”—independent of the “I” that initiates its motion, but also has turbulent disorientations (which may be related to the sentence’s self-creations) perhaps registered in the double personification of the sun laying His beauty on the morning and the western mountain—as if in a subsequent gesture of a peopled universe that includes the mobile sentence—touching the sun’s setting orb. Stammering marks the disruption to the chronological narrative of sentences, a voice caught in a thickening vision of a boy immersed and stretched and imbued with utterances and agencies beyond himself. But since stammering belongs to the poetic speaker, it reflects a view that at such moments of spiritual intensity the temporal separation is squeezed down to a condition of turbulent pressures in the lively vibrating, precarious sentence, which, it could be said, appears—like the speaker’s blood—to “flow at its own pleasure.” Here Wordsworth’s blank verse eschews the future-orientedness of that day when we will all be “free-standing agents,” not “reclining poets” in touch with nature and reveries, but rather “aufrechter Gang” (in an upright posture of the citizen), in which our agency will flow like the most assured, and transparent, of enjambed pentamenter lines; instead it stammers, calling attention to its materiality in the present, its ungainly reality.

The Life of Things (from The Prelude)

I was seventeen. I conversed conversed conversed with bliss ineffable coercive transferred sentiment of being and auxiliary light spread o’er spread o’er spread o’er beating living spreading gliding beneath wave and air life and knowledge and wave of air and melodious light with blessings spread around

Half an hour I watched between mute with independent life (dust as we are) watched forms half an hour watched spreading archetype of numerous accidents watched ghastly forms breathless

I looked round ere I had been I left and saw I repaired and returned repaired ere I bowed low I should need. . .words. . .looked stumbling difficult dweller at bottom difficult and dreary stumbling invested vexed and tossed the girl blowing vexed and tossed

I cannot paint nor paint colors no colors and words unknown sense of thinking beyond what I already know or what
Someone already
Knows is terrifying
words vexed and tossed unknown I cannot paint visionary
dreariness in which but the girl gone bones shaped like a grave

that things of the lower
world exist
the world moves and remains

naked pool

emotion which discloses

words vexed and
scattered hair

dreary the vision already
“winter of the book”

strong enchantment of
dying away of stars
I turn
alone
in gusty days

fashioning
fell destroyer

with gentle powers
slipping still hanging

from knotgrass
guided almost silent

strain of music
uttering
horizon

my mortal life on plain beneath gliding beneath the wave, now naked pool that lay lonely scene beneath hills dim dim abode faint memorial gleam of dim similitude having lain I register reascend bare slope trace

glittering idly
a cabinet of sensations

passion its birth
let the fiddler
scream in twink-
ling of stars

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