23 ene. 2007

Linguist Mark Liberman makes an eloquent point here: that the idea of a perfect, elegant, and correct language is always displaced unto a past, but that this past is always imaginary. That is to say, people never have spoken in this *perfect* language, and nobody seriously thinks that we should return to 18th century, or 17th century, norms--or to the norms of whatever period is considered the golden age of language usage. It's a fundamentally dishonest argument, because the norms of usage, whatever they are, must always necessarily be those of the present, never those of the past. [I hope my paraphrase does some justice to Liberman's post]

And so it is too with the norms of the "poetry language" (Kenneth Koch). We can't seriously propose to bring back Victorian ideals, or Elizabethan ideas, because we wouldn't be happy with the result even if we could actually bring back those ideals. We are stuck in the present, and that present is more lively and interesting because it is *our* time. "As if you would never leave me and were / the inexorable product of my own time."

Part of time is the way in which time is *felt*. I'm thinking of the "feel" of a musician or poet for time itself. Think of how Charlie Parker changed the way we perceive the passage of time from one second to the next! (Cortázar wrote about this in his story "El perseguidor.") Creeley felt and understood Parker's innovation.

Time to teach grammar!

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