Norman’s talk this morning has me thinking about Blake and vision and metaphor. The myth he made, I want to say from scratch, but in fact through some sly composting, offers to our minds four, I want to say worlds, but really, visions. Four ways of seeing that express themselves as worlds.
Blake felt sure one lives in such a world as one makes in mind. Thus the “mind-forged manacles” of “London.” His letter to Thomas Butts (previous post) lays the four out one way. In the prophetic poems he sets them before us as Eden, Beulah, Generation, and Ulro.
I asked this morning if “birds are forms of attention” is a metaphor or literal. Maybe the answer might depend on what realm one’s in that moment.
In Eden, the sentence is an insult to birds and attention. Not untrue but vulgar to say. In Beulah it’s a literal truth. In Generation it’s a metaphor. In Ulro, hell, it’s a lie. Them’s my thinks of an evening.
Now I fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
‘Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And three fold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep
William Blake, Letter to Thomas Butts, 22 November 1802
Still working out how to get notifications to those who want them! (Facebook, thy name is frenemy.) I think I have the blog now set to post automatically to the associated FB page. This is a test of that.
One thing I love at Samish Island are the birds. Great blue herons, bald eagles, barn swallows, robins; all through a day of sitting your mind is woven into and out of by robinsong. And today, on the drive back, a redtail hawk on a power line, and the sheer abundance in the eye of two goldfinches on a wire fence.
An old thought came back, birds are forms of attention, sometimes the mind twits and chitters, others it floats on thermals, others it dodges cars eating road carrion.
When I say that, birds are forms of attention, is that a metaphor. I don’t think I mean it as one. I’m thinking I mean it literally.
If any thing is also every thing, then metaphor’s no longer a lie, but maybe too it’s no longer metaphor. It’s just a different mode of literal.
Blake’s fourfold vision in the back of my mind here — probably because Norman talked about Blake, his “Fly” and his “London,” this morning. More on that soon but first to the gym.
A link to Stephen Burt’s essay on the “new thing” poetry. Or the new “thing poetry.” Need to reread it, but what I remember is, how grateful I am to find a name for what I’ve thought to be up to.
He sets as an epigraph a favourite passage by a favourite poet.
The self is no mystery, the mystery is
That there is something for us to
– George Oppen, “World, World —”
Oh and just for funs, since I’m about to head back down to Samish for the last of Norman Fischer’s dharma talks, let’s put Oppen beside Dogen.
To study the Buddha Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be realized by the ten thousand things.
– Eihei Dogen
Grasses trees and broken bricks reach out to wake you up.
Metaphor has fallen out of my work almost completely. I think there’s one in the whole of Dumuzi. Why is that? (Not a rhetorical question.) Something in metaphor feels violent to me — wrenching a thing out of being-as-it-is so it can be yoked to some other thing and lend to its glory.
A metaphor is, at the least, a lie, and to go along with it, we need to split our consciousness in two — the one who accepts the lie, and the one who knows it for a lie. (Compare to the split induced by accentual-syllabic meters — one ear attentive to concrete particular speech rhythms, one to an abstract metrical pattern.)
Donald Revell on mixing metaphors: “A good way to kill the damn things off.”
Metonymy seems gentler, letting its two terms hang out together equably.
Both enlarge consciousness — one by an abrupt rending, the other by a steady gentle pressure outward.
I wonder, is compost, what actually happens in the compost bin, the vegetal smushing, closer to metaphor or metonymy?
So this is The Art of Compost and it’s a blog. Because what the world really needs is another blog. It began with my prep for a course of the same name and soon took on a life of its own at plural intersections of my reading thinking teaching writing speaking feeling looking wondering.
Pretty sure to go in the bin are my thoughts on and misunderstandings of
- 20th and 21st C. poetry and poetics in North America, esp. objectivist and Black Mountain traditions — what Stephen Burt has called The New Thing.
- A mostly subterranean lineage connecting us to Very Old Things — busted up clay tablets, cave paintings, the intelligence of stones (sitting still).
- Whatever collapses, rots, blends, merges, fosters, nourishes.
- Stray thoughts on teaching, writing, reading, appearing, disappearing.
The impetus comes from Jed Rasula’s This Compost but he has neither reviewed nor approved this usage. Time for a picture of a nurse blog.
I hope you’ll check it out. If you like what you see, you can follow on by clicking the “Follow me …” button. Or watch for new posts on Facebook. (If you Like the Facebook page you’ll hear about new posts. I think. Pretty sure.)
And let me know what you think! Leave a comment in the comment box …