Friday, May 15, 2009

συμβολον ηδη μοι

Montiglio interprets Pindar's poetics, supplying some broad thoughts about the materiality of sound according to the ancients. "Poetry is a sonorisation of the silent mind, and its coming to being depends on a restless movement of the vocal organ" (Silence, p. 95, her emphasis). And, worth noting in passing: "Reading out loud is a metaphor for both the execution and the composition of the poem. It is only through this reading that poetry comes to exist. Mental writing does not produce a nonrecited poem" (p. 94). Liquid sounds. Dramatic sounds. Sounds too powerful to be human. Did silence ever call to be animated? Somewhere a poem slips out of existence, into the silences that never give birth to conversation. Not even rereadings let us escape oblivion indefinitely. The poem knows that. Every poem secretly knows that. "The 'liquidity' of song, which takes us back to its oral origins, favors a thorough diffusion of the poet's voice"(p. 98). This would be a thespian voice, a persona attached to an arc ever near completion, the figure of sonorous presence, approximating total presence–cut down by skop as foretold. The voice of the ancient poet, though, is it not the voice of a rereading? "The voice of the Muses, which engages other voices in a contrapuntal response, seems to have the same capacity of spatial diffusion as the light; it is as tireless as the rays of the sun and spreads like dawn on the sea; it makes itself heard everywhere"(p. 97). Rereading is the silence of the said, or, better, it insists on the silence of the said, reads it aloud so as to put it to sleep, exactly a lullaby. The polyphonization of the unsaid, the said's remainder, rests on this sleep of the said within the rereading. What does the page symbolize amidst such tireless conversation? It too must be reread, polyphonized along with the rest of the unsaid. Symbolize?


Since the experience of poetry, in an aural culture, consists in the hic et nunc of its performance, the real or imaginary listener who wants to describe it follows the movements of its musical unfolding, just as we would describe a symphony following the succession of its resonances. Sappho seems indeed to be reproducing the many instrumental and vocal components of a true symphony, the subject matter of which is only mentioned at the end.


(p. 97)


Imagine a word too powerful to be human. Don't we do this all the time? Symphony, aural, resume, the silent mind. Imagine what it would take to voice such words, and only such words. To voice discretely, and only with the voice, the voice itself. Never happen. (Let "the vocal organ" be a metaphor for its never happening.) We call upon other voices–as if to converse? The experience of poetry has always been like hanging out with the daughters of Mnemosyne, the way we used to, when it rained. Would our aural materialism propose to explain away the touch of Terpsichore and her siblings, or her symbol? Unstring the Canon of the Nine? Step lightly, dear imaginary listener, in your interpretation of the boundlessness of musical voices, a boundlessness that coexists with the silent mind. The silent mind is a wild animal. The excursion of the poem means not to tame. Nor to bewilder. We are coming closer to saying what it means for the silent mind to stand for a material cause–the meontic efficiency of the symbol, incidentally, is nowhere near that of the ordinary sign. Do you suppose there is some balance to be struck between silence and restlessness?


Lagoon. Tortoise. Lagoon.


I threw myself at the shores of your tongue, restless you. What solace was there in sweet centuries we spoke them too. And we stole the silence of the said from the public library, its bright corners, musics, ours and Sappho's, who seemed never to have learned how to die, but fragment, fragment. . . taught us words like mythoplokos.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

posted by Fido the Yak at 8:00 PM.

3 Comments:

OpenID kvond said...

FtY: ""Poetry is a sonorisation of the silent mind, and its coming to being depends on a restless movement of the vocal organ" (Silence, p. 95, her emphasis). And, worth noting in passing: "Reading out loud is a metaphor for both the execution and the composition of the poem. It is only through this reading that poetry comes to exist."


Kvond: It reminds me of Hölderlin's famous neologistic claim that the word of Greek tragedy was deadly-factual, because it took hold of a killing body:

"Das griechischtragische Wort is tödtlichfactisch, weil der Leib, den es ergreifet wirklich tötet."


"The Greek-tragic word is deadly-factual, for the body which it seizes truly kills." (Thomas Pfau, translation).

I think that when I read Pindar and witness the extraordinary sinuous meters and syntax, something more than merely the "restless movement of the organ". The word in Greek poetry seizes the organ, conditions and puppets it into an incredible plastic display. It is not a mere binary of word/body, but the talon-like grasp of the body in certain verbal arts, something articulate and dextrous beyond even the human imagination. I get the same feeling with Sappho. The body is culled up out of its depth and death, to radiate (and breathe).

Wonderful post.

May 22, 2009 7:55 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

"The word in Greek poetry seizes the organ, conditions and puppets it into an incredible plastic display. It is not a mere binary of word/body, but the talon-like grasp of the body in certain verbal arts, something articulate and dextrous beyond even the human imagination."

Where would you locate the human imagination?

May 23, 2009 2:52 AM  
OpenID kvond said...

I would locate the human imagination with a range of capacities to act and manifest. In a certain sense, to picture/create, and through this creation to draw associations into substantive being. When the word, the Greek word, seizes the organ, (as it does with the full panoply of its tremendous syntax), something happens to the organ, it seems, that the imagination cannot fully steer or know. Cross-currents between sense and sound, folded into the written lines, seem to operate with a precision that exceeds our images and conscious affective response.

So for instance when Sophocles writes of "the path" of blind Teirsias, coming out of the boy that leads:

"...We came by a common road,

Two-out-of-one seeing. With the blind so

It is this path, out of the fore-leader it moves."
Antigone, lines 988-991

I think as readers of poetry we feel, we sense, that the path is come right out of the materiality of the words which take our hand. And the capacities of the imagination, as we are lead, are only part of, only a surface depth, of where we are going.

We cannot (fully) imagine what is being done to us.

May 23, 2009 9:39 AM  

Post a Comment

Fido the Yak front page