Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wittgenstein's Door II

I suspect that the "infernal music I was thinking of in my "Night Piece" to have been Alexander Scriabin's. Scriabin, an important figure in Russian music during the turn of the last century, composed in an eerily quasi-atonal vein. Primarily a keyboard composer, he also wrote orchestral pieces. He was a mystic, who believed in the metaphysical power of music, the relationship between visual phenomena (color) and sound (tones). This led him into eccentric notions of harmony, which can sound "off" to the untrained ear; I can also testify that his pieces are a "devil" to play, with countless minor augmentations which are difficult to make sound rounded and of a piece; nevertheless, they are quite beautiful once you get into the spirit of them. It's Russian late romanticism, decadent and "fatalistic" in mood. Too, his work often conjures up a feeling of possession, or other-worldly alchemical revelation. (Some day I shall have to write a blog about him. Here are some characteristic Preludes [Op. 11] which may serve as an introduction to his style.) 

In any case, whatever the underlying inspirations may have been for these prose-poems, I felt a liberating facility which lasted throughout the several weeks I wrote them. When you are drawn to an unfamiliar source, or an access of inspiration, you may feel yourself to be on uncertain ground. On a creative level, that uncertainty can be of great use, allowing a freshness and novelty whose strangeness is intriguing, which carries you along on a path of curiosity and discovery.       

John Soane's house - the sculpture room

Time in poetry is characteristically measured through the beats in the musical "line" created by a sequence of words. The harmony of the resulting syntax is what Robert Frost once called "the sound of sentences"--which for him was an amalgam of the accent of New England down home cracker-barrel speech and his meditative inner voice. But it is also a surprisingly accurate descriptive for what poetry actually is, and does. But in prose, the musicality becomes much more complex, a continuous thread unconfined by the length of a single line. A prose poem may have the same kind of argument of successive statements, leading to a conclusive synthesis, as a "poem" does, but there is a kind of stasis, a static poise which resists pauses and rests. Punctuation may demarcate, but prose is both a continuous thread--endless, by implication--as well as a repeated "starting again" from zero or "1" as each sentence or phrase reinitiates the voice. This is at least in part what I had in mind with "S T A T I C" which the spaced capitals was intended to suggest. 


Someone told me once, after reading this poem, that one of the symptoms of schizophrenia was the illusion of getting smaller, inside a larger containment. I don't know how much truth there is to that, or even if it's stock psychological theory, but I do know that I was thinking about Morandi's Etchings when I wrote this. Several of his still life studies suggest a condition of near total darkness, in which objects may appear to emit a ghostly "light" delineating their outlines, which then may seem to be "absent" rather than materially present. It's an odd phenomena which I've only experienced a couple of times. The essayist and auto-biographer Ved Mehta, who is totally blind, once described his ability to "sense" objects, perhaps suggesting a sixth sense. I'm not sure how far I'd want to take that. 

In the 1970's, all the men seemed to be wearing their hair long, with sideburns, and wore bell bottomed trousers in pastel shades. I think this was an aspect of the "British invasion" but in any case, it was a pertinent reminder of the predictable conformity of American cultural habit, one which I took as a symptom of its decadence.  

If prose poetry mimics the supposed sequential strategy of narrative, or logical argument, then, as an act of creative destruction, we may choose to question its assumptions by denying its objectives. Why must any story follow the usual illusion of chronology? We know that time in mind isn't the same as that we experience in "real" time. I remember that at the time I was reading one of Le CarrĂ©'s very well-plotted and crafted espionage thrillers, and it occurred to me that an interesting experiment might be to carve one up and turn it into a meta-fiction of misplaced events and clues and false leads. Of course, flashbacks and previews and time-jumps and interpolations of all kinds are used, and not just in crime fiction. What I meant to suggest here was that the act of the reader's participation was based on the actual dialectic between the reader's patience, curiosity and judgment posed against the author's intention, ability and choices. There's a degree if improbability about any fiction, that no amount of suspension of belief or patience can obviate. 

No comments: