29 mar. 2007

Visual description is probably the most boring use to which writing can be put. It is vastly overrated. Aren't descriptions what most people skip over in a novel?

Put another way, do you miss the visual when it isn't there? As in Creeley who is very abstract and often doesn't present a visual image at all? Despite his obvious indebtedness to WCW?

Isn't visuality in most great canonical poetry quite conventional and generic anyway? Language itself is very abstract, in that even visually suggestive words, like color names, present a platonic archetype rather than an eidetic image. There aren't miniscule descriptons of cherry blossoms in Japanese poetry. We already know what they look like so language's role is not to paint a picture of them.

Take this as a contrarian view. I'm assuming that the valuation of visual elements is a given; we were all raised on imagism. My point is that the imagistic imperative is not necessarily universal, that it is the product of a particular history and doesn't really apply to all or most poetry in most languages and periods. It can't be a way of valuing one poet over another. For example, if I were to say that Schuyler has a keener visual eye than Ashbery (true enough) that wouldn't imply that Schuyler is better.

7 comentarios:

jane dijo...

a) I agree with everything. But re below, Jakobsen is very useful in what's gained by testing out the distinctions between each category of speech. Isn't lumping five of them together in effect going the long way around a fairly short formulation, something to the effect that poetry is defined as the language-form that has the highest ratio of non-semantic/semantic communication?

b) minuscule is the word.

Jonathan dijo...

Going the long way around is useful because each of the six dimensions is worthy of separate consideration.

What would "non-semantic" communication be? I'm not sure that works. Surely poetry is more, not less meaningful in semantic terms than other forms of discourse.

jane dijo...

Well, in the familiar sense, what often gets called "form" is (an example of the) non-semantic. But you could just define the non-semantic as everything that the dictionary definitions of the words can't tell you. And then you can put all, e.g., written communication on a spectrum: cookbook recipes at one end, poems at the other, more or less.

Tim dijo...

Creeley is an interesting (non-)example here. I've been working on his "Numbers" sequence, which responds to the number paintings of Robert Indiana. Creeley doesn't describe Indiana's paintings (what's to describe--they're just like a big numeral "1" with a circle around it and "ONE" written underneath, in vivid colors); his poems are more like analogical extensions of the paintings, exploring what it would mean to use a number as poetic material.

I guess the link to WCW depends on what you think Williams is doing. Is he describing or evoking? Is he trying to summon up a visual image or enacting a kind of verbal action on the page with words? Is there a difference?

Bob dijo...


You wouldn't make the same generalization about descriptions of *sound*, though, would you?

JforJames dijo...

Since the advent of cinema the poetic image has grown more and more important. It's what the image is used for that is key...Eliot's objective correlative on all that.
Jim F

Jonathan dijo...

I think the cine makes the poetic image less important, just like it makes narration in the novel less important.

I don't think poetry's primary function is to describe sound either. It IS sound already, but "sound effects" are over-rated.