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Intention

21 January 2010

Vast substantial voids fill
the spaces between us
as vales between mountains lie
and sad whimpers fill the night

The sky is pock’d with stars
and under night’s black veil
superficial desires breed
like goblins in the growing dark

Like universes yet unfilled
by stories of heroes or villains
a thousand pages, blank,
a million words, unwritten–

A novel thought from a fool.
What sounds could we sing
in a land so strange, with hands
cut off and tongues cloven to throats?

Insurpassable blackness
thick dark shadows of cataphatic knowledge
encapsulate, surround, and bind
my true intentions; my cruelty, sublime.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. veritasxlogos permalink
    21 January 2010 16:36

    Very nice. Dark, but not overly so. I like the pun “A novel thought from a fool” – shades of shakespeare their on many levels. Cataphatic knowledge – interesting. Obvious tones of the divine here, but lumped into insurpassable blackness and our own cruelty. That is intreguing. Interesting use of ‘sounds’ instead of ‘songs’ in the fourth stanza. One is left to wonder who exactly is on the other side of the substantial void. Good work here.

    • 21 January 2010 17:21

      Thanks! I’ll try to respond to the thoughts you’ve given on it (where I can, or have something to say about it). Shakespeare, I suppose, is an ultimate source for every subsequent English language writer’s anxiety of influence; you’re right, there are shades of King Lear all over this, although I didn’t realize it until you pointed it out. As far as cataphatic knowledge goes…I guess I’m playing on the deep darkness normally associated with divine apophaticism, suggesting that a simulacrum of the experience of true boundlessness in union with the divine can be generated by a deluded human psyche (one of the many dangers of knowing “too much”). Tolkien once said that people just want to eat the soup, they don’t want to see the bones of the ox from which it was made; I agree with that…and at the same time, here we are examining in detail the bones of the ox! 😀 The forth stanza (quite intentionally) hearkens to Psalm 136 (LXX), which deals with the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. I think the metaphor there might not need too much explanation. As far as who is on the other side of the substantial void…well, I have my own ideas on that. My poetry is informed by my faith, although there is not a 1:1 correspondence. Sometimes, the worldflows just have to go, and you see what you end up with.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting! I really appreciate it.

  2. veritasxlogos permalink
    21 January 2010 21:43

    That is how much Shakespeare has influenced our thoughts! I was actually immediately reminded of Hamlet and also his constant use of fools as philosophers. I had a feeling that God might be on the other end of the abyss. Certainly a constant battle in modern Christian theology: the presence of a hidden God. So the fourth stanza is actually alluding to singing a “psalm” but rather we sing a “sound”. Very nice. May I suggest Czeslaw Milosz and Friedrich Holderlin for your reading pleasure. The former because of his many poems on the distance between us and God and the latter for his understanding of the Hidden God. No doubt you already have many books on your plate, but if you get the time, look into those two.

    • 22 January 2010 13:28

      Thanks for the suggestions–I’ll definitely add them to my “to read” list.

      As far as sounds go…I have to admit, I’m of the old school that sees sound as the primary thing we comprehend about language. I think that when the word-sounds match up with the signified thing, there is a power to language that transcends arbitrariness and nihilism. The problem is, language gets diluted over time, and so, achieving that sound-correspondence becomes increasingly difficult (and, sadly, poets contribute a great deal to that increasing difficulty). So in “singing a sound” rather than the psalm, I wonder if it doesn’t have more to do with expressing the same grief and privation, but in a more raw, even primitive, way?

      • veritasxlogos permalink
        22 January 2010 14:35

        Raw most definitely. Sounds are indeed the root of language but do not carry the same weight as other descriptions of language. Certainly, though songs are sounds, they are also particular sounds arranged in particular ways. Those arrangements bring refinement to one’s understanding. Pure ‘sound’ is more close to what we make when truly sad or angry (whales or screams devoid of traditional words)- almost incomprehensible if it weren’t for the tremendous emotion put into them. In such a way, the idea of words and grammar disappear and brings the emotion to the front of the definition.

        However, are we ever content in just making sounds? Don’t we always, after our grief and privation, turn toward some justification, argumentation, or hymn? It is interesting that we move toward organization and rhetoric after such emotions leave us. Perhaps to squelch these feelings? Perhaps to justify them?

        hmmmm… so much more to think about now.

      • 22 January 2010 14:44

        You’re right of course; the thing about humans is that we make sounds into words. I think what I was getting at (in a philological roundabout sort of way) is that when the emotion-power-sound corresponds closely with the word or words used to describe that sound-state, they are far more powerful and effective. Hence the problem that, say, Confucius talks about in the Analects; the reason we are not the equals of our ancestors is because our language has deteriorated. That’s why, for Confucius, the first thing a sage-king would do is “rectify the names”–purify the language. Robert Frost talks about this, too, with his principles of the “Oversound.” What Frost tried to do was write poetry that focused on the sound of the words being spoken, trying to evoke emotion through a return to the power of word-sounds. I think that’s where I fall, more or less, in the spectrum of linguistics, poetry, and literary theory (and that definitely makes me a minority).

      • veritasxlogos permalink
        22 January 2010 16:23

        I find the concept of deterioration interesting. I am not sure it is completely fair to say such (that being said, it is also not without truth). We do not match our ancestors in mastery of language. Yet, at one point in western civilization we were rising – reaching a point at perhaps Shakespeare. Perhaps we are rising again. After all, who were George Ashby, William Dunbar, and John Lydgate compared to Shakespeare?

        I find it troubling to blame the language itself. Shakespeare used essentially the same language as us to create some great poetry. It is just that we have more cooks in the kitchen now. You can’t endeavor upon teaching everyone to read and write and then expect them all to master the English language before reading and writing. We have a culture that doesn’t mind reading a deteriorated language, and it certainly doesn’t mind writing in it. Yet there are still those who use that same deteriorated language to write good poetry – Pound, Plath, Olds, Joyce, Eliot, Lowell, Brodsky, Milosz, and Burkowski (in my opinion). I will certainly put these modern linguists against Blake, Byron, Keats, Li Po, and all the fireside poets. That being said they may not be a Shakespeare, a Goethe, a Tu Fu, or a Homer.

        I think you are right about some form of problem in our language, but the problem seems to be in the meaning, the mastery, and the grandeur of our language, not in its sound. In the end that might be 6 of one and a half dozen of the other. I don’t know.

        ~VxL

      • 23 January 2010 14:01

        This is becoming more of a treatise on my ideas of language and principles of aesthetics than I intended, but what the heck, it’s a little fun to do 😀

        I’m not sure that it’s that the language (qua language) is deteriorating in any way; I mean, you are right in that we speak more or less the same language Shakespeare–although, I have to tell you, the high school students and undergraduates I’ve tutored through his works would be the first to argue with you about that. However, what I think has deteriorated is our knowledge, even on an instinctual level, of the power of language itself. In some ways, our thoughts determine reality; if we believe, as modern linguists do, that the relationship between the ‘signified’ and the ‘signifier’ in any language is essentially and arbitrary relationship, that robs the speakers of the language of the ability to assert something profoundly true by that language’s use (and, consequently, the language becomes treated with more and more contempt, haphazard and sloppy usage becomes the norm, and, in the end, it’s just post-modern nihilism). So the problem, as ever, isn’t with The Language, it’s with us, and our (ill) use of it.

        Or, that’s just what I think.

  3. 22 January 2010 12:09

    I was sent over here by my online friend Phoenix-Karenee — and I’m glad I was.

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