17
Apr
12

on poetry

I find myself thinking still about Merwin’s “On the Subject of Poetry,” especially trying to figure out why Merwin called it that, and I think I owe oldblack an apology.

I think I got it all wrong.

Instead, the young man in the garden, with his hands in his pockets, listening to the wheel that is not there, is us, trying to discern what the poem means. And it is exactly that enigmatic nature that is poetry.

                               . . .He does not move
His feet nor so much as raise his head
For fear he should disturb the sound he hears
Like a pain without a cry, where he listens. . .

 

You can hear it, see it, just there. No, not there, there. And trying to explain it is the act which destroys it.

 

For some reason this reminds me of a beautiful, powerful moment in the haunting movie Tsotsi.  Tsotsi, (the name he has given himself means, literally, “thug,”) has invaded a young woman’s home and is forcing her to nurse the infant he has inadvertently stolen and then decided to keep. He notices some mobiles the woman has made. One is made of bits of scrap metal. When Tsotsi asks her why it’s all rusty she replies, simply, “I was sad.” Another is of broken, colored glass. He pokes his head into its dangling strands and asks, “This one, you were happy? How much?” She says “Fifty dollars.” “Fifty? For broken glass?” “No, silly, for light, and color, on you. Can’t you see?”

 

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2 Responses to “on poetry”


  1. April 21, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Hey, Sheriji, no apology needed! Your latest explanation sounds plausible to me … but the first one did too 🙂 and I haven’t been lying awake in bed worrying about whether you’re right. When it comes to poetry or art I’m one of those people who is happy to be guided by others about the meaning, but I can make up my own mind about what I like. And actually, I like your poetry more than Merwin’s


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