Unreal Nature

February 24, 2017

The Invisible Tree

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:29 am

… as reliable as the bird, the waterfall, “these locusts by day, these crickets by night.”

This is from ‘Impact, Moral and Technical … ‘ (1951) found in The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore edited by Patricia C. Willis (1986):

… Well, writing is difficult — at least it is for me. As Katherine Anne Porter said the other evening, quoting Lewis Carroll’s “Reeling and writing and fainting in coils,” “our salvation is urgency. That saves us.” I was also interested in Wallace Fowler’s statement that Paul Valéry thought writing poetry is a bending of the will to all kinds of constraint.

[line break added] Somebody asked me if I was going to say something about why I dislike poetry. I say it with all my heart: I fear and dread it, and we are estranged from it by much that passes as virtuosity — that is affectation or exhibitionism — and then talent comes to the rescue, and we forget about what we think and automatically we are helplessly interested. But here instinct outdoes intellect, for the rhythm is the person.

The following if from a 1951 review of Wallace Stevens’s The Auroras of Autumn:

The imagination is “a roamer,” Wallace Stevens says, and poetry is “a page from the tale that it tells”; this time, of “Hans by a drift-fire” near “a steamer foundered in ice,” “opening the door of his mind” to the aurora borealis — to “flames.” “The scholar of one candle sees an arctic effulgence flaring on the frame of everything he is, and he feels afraid,” but is at ease in “a shelter of the mind with supernatural preludes of its own” to enchant and hypnotize.

… The poison in the meditations of the serpent in the ferns is “that we should disbelieve” that there is a starry serpent in the heavens on which to fix the grateful mind.

Thus poetry substitutes for poverty, abundance, a spiritual happiness in which the intangible is more real than the visible and earth is innocent; “not a guilty dream” but a “holiness” in which we are awake as peacefully as if we lay asleep.

… The “ultimate poem” truly is “far beyond the rhetorician’s touch”; is as reliable as the bird, the waterfall, “these locusts by day, these crickets by night.”

… “If it should be true that reality exists / In the mind,” one has it all — “the heavens, the hells, the worlds, the longed-for lands,” “the invisible tree which may hold a serpent whose venom and whose wisdom will be one.”

My most recent previous post from Moore’s book is here.




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