19 December 2012

Bewilderment

First off, over here, Eric Forbes gives us a list of books to look forward to in 2013.

Last year I did a run down of what I read, how I liked it, etc. This year I don't have a list for you. Sorry, I didn't keep track. And I moved.

But! I have started to write posts about books I have been reading. I will continue that as long as I can discuss them in some broader context and by the end of 2013 we'll have a list of things I read without even trying!

Upon moving back to Santa Fe I have reconnected with old friends and places. I have been going to poetry readings and art openings. I have been at cocktail parties and, in general, been a real boy. A friend of mine had recently read David Ferry's Bewilderment. She recommended it, with a caveat:

Take it as a whole work.

The book is in sections. Each has a clear tone and arc to it. Each is a mix of poems and translations. The translations range from Virgil to Rilke to Cavafy to Horace. The connecting theme is one of time, and old age.

Ferry is 88. It is not my place to say that he is thinking about endings. But.

Aunt Nellie's picture was in the paper once,
Triumphantly posing with a large bottle,

Black widow spiders inside looking out,
As conscious as fireflies of their situation.

Are we conscious of our situation? That is the question I took away from Ferry's book. I write about decay in my own poetry. I have been obsessed with the idea of entropy for years. But am I conscious of being in the jar?

So the 'jar' is life itself. The fact that we are born and begin to fall apart immediately. Cell walls start to break down, chemicals begin their depletion, etc. etc. etc.

That word, etc., is a good example of the jar. It is such a small word, a placeholder really. But it contains multitudes of the unspeakable.

If we follow that train of thought a bit, we arrive at all language being mere placeholders for the things we are really trying to say. 'Apples' is not the actual fruit. Shine or no shine. Red or green. All of it, placeholders.

And Ferry seems to be pointing out that his words are merely newer versions of the old. The translations bleeding into his poems and his poems informing the depth of the old. And they all speak with the same voice across time. We are merely the same. Placeholding away.