21 jul. 2004

Notes On Meaning in Coolidge

While I'll defend Coolidge's more opaque poems as well, I find that many I have marked in my books as my favorites are ones that I have gotten, understood pretty well. Put another way: once I get one of his poems I tend to like it.

On a different note, the meanings of the words are always important, however much he uses them for their sound value. Sometimes the "right" word is not the one that is more readily comprehensible. I'm thinking of a word like "winkle."

I believe I can paraphrase the meaning of the poems of his that I like and understand. That is, there is a meaning detachable from the words themselves. My paraphrase may or may not be *correct,* but I could go back and compare it to the text itself, or use it to explain the poem to someone who claimed it incomprehensible. I'm not against paraphrase or interpretation in the least. The paraphrase is not "the meaning of the poem," but rather a tool one might use to approach the poem's meaning.

The more opaque work is something Coolidge had to do first to explore certain aspects of his craft, to forge a style. That's one perspective at least. I can't say I enjoy all of his work equally. Some of the works that seem to be explorations of a certain kind of pornographic imagination are not to my liking. Own Face, Sound as Thought, Crystal Text, Solution Passage, Mine: The One Who Enters the Stories, American Ones are my favorites.

"Sense that words are, makes clear, that tempo.
Too much meaning, wave and particle."

It is clear too that Coolidge is conscious of, and often discusses, the relation between meaning and a relative "opacity" in his own writing.