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Sailing 14: What kind of sword do you carry?

Started by Peter Yovu, March 06, 2011, 01:20:09 AM

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Chris Patchel

#60
QuoteDoes this one-liner illustrate Al's point, call it into question, generally mess with it. . . ? -Peter

the high fizz nerve the low boom blood dead silence

Briefly (since I don't think I'm adding anything new), I don't disagree with anything Al is saying, or that Peter is suggesting (I think). 'Meaning' (which is also paramount to me in art and everything else) is conveyed both through the form & content. It's what art is all about. In Jim's poem all the words have dictionary meanings, as well as emotive connotations as standalone words and, more importantly, how they add up in combination. Much could be said about the sounds of the words chosen (fizz, boom) and their fitting relation to the experience they express. And there's the contrasts of high/low, dead/alive, noisy inner/ soundless outer. Everything about the form & content matters and makes it meaningful as a conveyor of the original experience, and as a hightened artistic experience.

*modified on a continuing basis :)

Lorin

#61
Quote from: Peter Yovu on April 03, 2011, 09:49:28 PM
Thanks Al, for your help here. I hope you won't mind if once again I direct something you've said to further discussion.

So, here is my question to all: is it true for you that, as Al says,

"Meaning is foremost-- words are simply triggering points that either lead to "meaning" or fail to".

I have my thoughts on the matter, but I'd like to hold off, and for now offer a poem by Jim Kacian which can be found in the latest Roadrunner:

the high fizz nerve the low boom blood dead silence

Does this one-liner illustrate Al's point, call it into question, generally mess with it. . . ?


Meaning. To what extent is meaning inherent in words and to what extent is it assigned by the reader/ listener/ looker? I include 'looker' deliberately. When we listen to someone speaking, we not only have access to the tone of voice, but to body language. Take that perennial Australian expression:

"You bloody old bastard."

What's your response? No reader can assign meaning to this, with any hope of accuracy. Are you being insulted? Are you being treated affectionately? Are you being congratulated? Should you prepare for a punch in the face or a friendly slap on the back or arm around your shoulder?

When you have the visual, the body language, you have a much better chance of assigning meaning because you have a context. I saw the film, 'The King's Speech' recently. If you've seen it, visualise Geoffrey Rush sitting (horror of horrors! ;-) ) on the chair in the cathedral and delivering the line:

"I don't care how many royal arseholes have sat on this chair."

What is the meaning of the line in context? Does it have more than one meaning? (Yes, it does.)

A poem's form is its body. How would Jim Kacian's poem,

the high fizz nerve the low boom blood dead silence

work if it were written in 3 lines, or in a vertical column? Differently, and to me, not nearly as well. Though the sounds would be emphasized if it were given in a vertical column and the words would remain the same, the one-line form here enacts the meaning. What are we listening to? I'd say a machine that's monitoring signs of life until the end. "dead. . . silence" or "dead silence". The visual body of the poem enacts "flat-liner" (what would be seen on the machine) and confirms or determines the meaning we assign to the sounds and the silence.

"Everything about the form & content matters and makes it meaningful. . ." - Chris

- Lorin

modified: spello

modified: clarification in last sentence

sandra

the high fizz nerve the low boom blood dead silence

This poem would change from being, potentially, a mere collection of words arranged in a single line to, potentially, a poem if we could hear the poet read it (agreeing with everything Lorin has said, essentially).

For a start, it would not a be a string of seemingly unrelated words, but pairs/groups of words with pauses between. A sense may become apparent, for example, "blood-dead silence" or "blood, dead silence".

Is a poem still a poem if it cannot be understood? Is a haiku a haiku if it cannot be understood?

Lorin

Quote from: sandra on April 05, 2011, 12:35:33 AM
the high fizz nerve the low boom blood dead silence

This poem would change from being, potentially, a mere collection of words arranged in a single line to, potentially, a poem if we could hear the poet read it (agreeing with everything Lorin has said, essentially).

For a start, it would not a be a string of seemingly unrelated words, but pairs/groups of words with pauses between. A sense may become apparent, for example, "blood-dead silence" or "blood, dead silence".

Is a poem still a poem if it cannot be understood? Is a haiku a haiku if it cannot be understood?

hmmmm...except that for me, this does work as a written poem, a poem read on the page, as it is given. I don't need to hear it performed. If it were performed, it would need to be performed several times, with different inflections of voice and different pauses, to convey the full meaning. And the form of the poem, as it is written, would be lost.

When I say "A poem's form is its body", I do mean the written poem.

- Lorin

sandra

My mistake Lorin, I got hung up on:

When you have the visual, the body language, you have a much better chance of assigning meaning because you have a context.

Which I took to mean hearing/seeing the poem read.

Peter Yovu

the high fizz nerve the low boom blood dead silence

How does this poem mean?

When I first read it, I had assigned it a meaning quite different from those offered here, and I'm sure each reader will have his/her own interpretation.

In her essay Broken English, Heather McHugh says: "We can't help, as readers (or as spectators, for that matter-- the science of moving pictures was predicated on this fact) putting together the separate frames into a coherent or continuous experience. For the mind is not only analytic but synthetic".

The poem goes by as a series of frames (which with each re-reading may be re-framed, and made to cohere in various ways). That is to say, we are likely to read it in such a way as to find an interpretation which suits us, mirrors us, startles us, soothes us. . . .

But if we insist on interpretation we may miss how the poem means. And this may mean going beyond, or below, what "we can't help" doing into a place of helplessness, of fundamentally not knowing.
Which does not mean it won't be felt.

This will put the poem beyond the reach of those who feel a haiku has to come from, shall I say, a witnessed event. (Whenever I read about this belief or stance in relation to haiku, I am disheartened, because I know I am not in the realm of art but of reportage, which may have its charms but is seldom transformative. Paradoxically, it may even be dishonest).

There is of course great vigor in Kacian's language here. If the poem directs us, ultimately, away from interpretation, where does that leave us? Does it leave us only with the experience of language? I don't think so.

But I am going to stop here, before saying why I don't think so, and hope that someone else will step in.

So, how does this poem mean?

Mark Harris

I had an echocardiogram a couple of days ago, and the experience was similar to that of reading Jim's poem. Not in the way Lorin suggests. Every now and then the woman conducting the examination would switch from an image of my heart's interior to a screen that showed a visualization of the heartbeat along with a soundtrack. The main soundtrack was the boom-woosh of the heartbeat, but there were other tracks recording the slight shifts of my body, and the noise of my breath and lungs. Each soundtrack was accompanied by an animated visual of a different shape and color. Every now and then she would ask me to breath out and then hold my breath, and to hold very still. The sound of the heart itself, and the blood rushing through it, would be almost isolated. It had the same rhythm as jim's poem and seemed not to come from my body but from some tremendous ocean depth.

How much of what I saw and heard on the screen and the woman's face did I understand in the way she understood? Not much, probably, but for a few moments I completely lost myself. And I recognized that rhythm. Why am I telling this story? Not to offer an interpretation, but to try to answer how this poem means to me.

Chris Patchel

#67
I have little idea how or what Peter means :) but like Mark my experience of the poem is based on my experience (could it be otherwise?). I have tinnitus (ringing of the ear) which I only notice in 'dead silence.' It sounds like a high pitched electrical hum that varies in intensity (along with my heartbeat) depending on the level of noise and/or physical and mental exertion that preceded it. As after a workout, or a night out, when I arrive home and turn the car off.  'high fizz nerve' is no doubt something else but I can't help but read it as a similar bodily sensation.


Lorin

" There is of course great vigor in Kacian's language here. If the poem directs us, ultimately, away from interpretation, where does that leave us? Does it leave us only with the experience of language? I don't think so.

But I am going to stop here, before saying why I don't think so, and hope that someone else will step in.

So, how does this poem mean?" - Peter

I'd like you to say why you don't think so, Peter. I've got quite confused by what you mean by "how does this poem mean".

I know this sounds like the old, circular, "Whaddaya mean, whadduz it mean?", but I'm truly stumped. It seems that there is something esoteric here that I've not been initiated into.

- Lorin

Peter Yovu

the high fizz nerve the low boom blood dead silence

Let me re-phrase:

For those of you for whom this poem works, how does it work? What is it doing?



Mark Harris

#70
possibly

the high (fizz nerve)
the low (boom blood)
silence (dead)


the high fizz (nerve)
the low boom (blood)
dead silence


the high fizz nerve
the low boom blood
dead silence


the high fizz
nerve
the low boom
blood dead silence


the high fizz nerve
the low boom blood dead
silence


the high
fizz . . .
nerve

the low
boom . . .
blood

dead silence


the high fizz = nerve
the low boom = blood
dead = silence
or silence = dead


the high...fizz (nerve)...the low...boom (blood)...dead silence


the high nerve--
fizz, boom
the low blood--
dead silence


the high fizz
the low boom
nerve blood dead
silence


the high     fizz          nerve

the low       boom      blood

dead           silence    . . .


the high fizz nerve the low boom blood dead silence


concrete, or could be read that way, without being visually concrete
(what is concrete? How direct is sight, or any sensation?)
a nerve, or blood, removed from its function is like a
lily out of the water

and silence removed from sound?


[corrected a few small oversights]

hairy

#71
For me , it works emotionally--I can feel an emotional continuum from something very intensely high and continuing down the emotional spectrum to something low in intensity to eventually dead silence.

How does it work? By the arrangement of the words..none of Mark's re-structuring has the efficacy or impact that the one-liner in a continuous linear movement across the page has (for me).

Al  

Mark Harris

yes, interesting how the poem resisted being taken apart.

Chris Patchel

#73
QuoteFor those of you for whom this poem works, how does it work? What is it doing? --Peter

Thinking aloud: It's a compression of three felt/heard images connected to experience in a 'now moment of awareness.'

It works via accumulating connections. The words with their corresponding look, sound, syntax, meaning, rhythm, all connecting to my senses and experience.

The words 'low boom blood' for instance have strong connotations separately and together. The repeated 'b' and 'o' sounds emphasize the bass beat of lifeblood. Pairing that with the agitated treble of 'high fizz nerve' heightens the sense of each, separately and simultaneously. Setting those active, forceful sensations against the dead, still silence intensifies the experience further still...

Chris Patchel

#74
PS- 'vigorous language' provides great provocation for this discussion, and serves to stretch me, so I'm happy to go with it. But effective language is closer to the reality for me. The poem at hand does indeed use vigorous language to great advantage (the one line form works particularly well for this), while other haiku, the previous 'little inn' poem for example, achieve their ends by subtler means.

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