16 may. 2011

Synesthesia

I was reading an interview by Valente, who said that Webern had influenced him as much as any literary intertext. He also mentioned Klee and Kandinsky. We saw some examples from Creeley in posts recently. I think many poets (Lorca, Frank O'Hara, David Shapiro, Valente, Creeley) approach poetry as a closely related sister art to painting and/or music. (Usually both.) I can't say most poets do, because I can't back that up, but a lot of the poets I have been most attracted to have done so, and that's certainly a key to the way I have read them as well, ever since I read Perloff's Poet Among Painters.

Yet this is not easy to do as a critic. I never liked facile approaches, like saying "he's trying to with words what x did with paint." I never liked mere juxtaposition or shallow analogies. Sometimes, too, I see where the poet has paid homage to a work of music, but I don't have a lot to say. With Valente's homage to Couperin, for example. Why this musical version of Trois leçons de tenèbres and not that of another composer?

8 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

I dislike critical comments that describe poetry as "jazzy," especially when it is clearly intended to mean "loose" (but actually means "slack"). Jazz is not loose; it is incredibly tight!

Vance Maverick dijo...

No reason to think Valente was insincere in claiming influence from Webern and Couperin. But it's a long way from there to being able to do anything with the connection, as readers. It's a bit like speculating which Grecian urn Keats might have seen, if any.

Jonathan dijo...

Well we can listen to Couperin or Webern, but we can't necessarily look at the urn. That's a big difference right there. I think if we could find Keats' Grecian Urn that would be pretty significant.

Vance Maverick dijo...

Distractingly sloppy comparison, I admit. At any rate, we're not disagreeing. What Valente got from Webern may have been intense for him, even literally inspiring, but it's unlikely to surface as a perceptible relationship between the works.

Andrew, you're right -- but jazz is more than just tight, it achieves its rhythmic effects through a cultivated irregularity. Not just that eighths are swung, but a whole world of such expressive distortions against the grain of the beat. So in principle "jazzy" could be a meaningful term of praise (not that it ever seems to be).

Jonathan dijo...

I'm listening now to a lecture on Rilke about his voyage to Spain and the visual impressions he received from seeing El Greco and the landscape around Toledo.

Jonathan dijo...

Jazzy, for me, also means engaged with the American vernacular, slangy in register.

Flo dijo...

I just picked up "Godel Escher Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter from the library, because a book I recently read on Bach, and really enjoyed, referenced it. "GEB" was really popular when I was in college but I never got to it. I mention it because in the forward Hofstadter says that in his approach to some of his chapters he tried to write prose fugues inspired by Bach. Haven't read it yet, so don't know how it worked. When I finished reading two Bach books a few weeks ago, I wanted to read some Bach-esque poetry, and the only thing I could think of (limited to English) was Christopher Smart's "Song to David," which rings magnificent variations over a tight metrical and rhetorical structure.

And thinking about mentioning this to you, I remembered a performance poem I wrote and "produced" in college, ca. 1984, inspired by jazz, in which I wrote unison passages and verbal backing riffs for a trio of three poets to read, with each member of the trio improvising a verbal solo over the backing riffs -- two poet friends performed it with me at a reading. Nobody recorded it (to my knowledge), and I don't think I still have a copy of the "chart," so I wouldn't vouch for its quality, but we had fun doing it.

And in case my wife and I happen to be logged in today under her name, this is semi-regular commenter John.

Andrew Shields dijo...

Vance: "jazz is more than just tight, it achieves its rhythmic effects through a cultivated irregularity. Not just that eighths are swung, but a whole world of such expressive distortions against the grain of the beat."

That sounds like a description of good blank verse! :-)

But of course "jazzy" usually means something much looser in discussions of poetry, including the use of the vernacular that you mention, Jonathan.