the image

Thursday, February 19th, 2004

Is it too much to say that the writer or imagemaker must strive to evoke experience or approximations of experience in the audience? My experience with Interactive Fiction calls up an evoking of the simulated space and the slow emergence of that space in time, leaving an afterimage of the textual world. The experience is weirdly visceral.

Here’s William Carlos William’s The Red Wheelbarrow.

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

Why does the object matter? We talked about this in CW today, worrying about how much the author must try and let the reader read and experience, rather than doing the work for the reader or disallowing the possibility of experience. In IF the equivalent is to solve the puzzle for the reader.

Why does the object matter, this kind of sight?

We need to ask Lorca, who writes in The Spilled Blood:

Let my memory kindle!
Warn the jamines
of such minute whiteness!

I will not see it!

. . . . . . . . . .

But now he sleeps without end.
Now the moss and the grass
open with sure fingers
the flower of his skull. . .


One response to “the image”

  1. Beverly says:

    Maybe the object is the base to dramatic effect! I’ve got one kindling right now. It’s the laundry. It has piled up and god knows what its doing in the hamper, the washer, the dryer and some hanging on the line for dear life! What will it be like when I ever get back to it? There was a space there in Lorca that was immediately filled when I read the last stanza. God that’s magic.
    Beverly

the image

Saturday, January 31st, 2004

The last stanza of Geoff Brock’s poem The Last Suburbia (see New England Review, Spring 03) goes this way:

Cicadas hum their scratched-brass elegies
as dry, unhinging winds shake the tall trees.
And all around me, winged seeds descend.

Throughtout The Last Suburbia, the reader will find very few abstractions, such as the word “beautiful.” Beautiful is a classificatory word not a description. It’s also a loaded word, meaning that when we use it something else is usually going on. Beautiful comes “after” experience. Once we figure out the insect, then we can figure in what slot to store it: worker or warrior, winged or just legged. Some, I guess, would argue that “beautiful” is an aesthetic term.

Two people are watching a sunset in El Paso, Texas. To the west the land is black, the sky aflame with orange and red illumination, the view as wide as Connecticut itself. You can see individual trees miles away on mesas or hills.

“Wow, that’s beautiful,” he says.

“Yeah, sure is,” he number 2 says.

In this case, neither he nor he 2 are trying to write a poem; they’re reacting to “the experience.”

Brock writes these stanzas to begin the poem:

You’ve come to lie here by this stand of ash.
The hard clay path behind you is a long
abrasion arcing away, over the swell

and down toward unseen rows of houses where
neighbors settle for dinner and their children
chatter and their dogs dig toward open fields.

There’s something to learn here as we pause and wait “over the swell.” Can you see the rise and the fall, the arc in the arrangement:

. . . over the swell
and down . . .

The trees, the clay path are with us. The reader is experiencing the space. The path points back toward things outside of view, which we can also experience: the houses, neighbors, children, dogs.

The poem may be about grief. But that last stanza is loaded with stillness, even though there are seeds in the air. The falling seeds mean a lot. Beauty means nothing.


2 responses to “the image”

  1. Neha says:

    Point taken.

  2. gibb says:

    Hmmm, yes. I do see the word as abstract and meaningless, but in knowing the poet, it changes the word.

    For example, in looking at Neha’s phrase below, “This tiny, but beautiful pink rock, streaked with shades of grey…” I saw the rock as history, pitted, scarred, carrying its burden that to the innocence of the speaker, is beautiful in that history is being discovered and marvelled at. I see the phrase as meaning “This tiny, but (loaded, heavy, telling, etc.) pink rock…” And as I said, knowing Neha’s appreciation of history, accepted the word “beautiful.”

    But you are right. The piece, read away from the knowledge of the author, must stand on its own to reveal.