Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Orphic Interval

I am persuaded that inside each interesting poem, there must exist some sort of pause, a deep seated harmonic lull and/or apex of quietness that serves to advance the poetic construction.

I’d like to call this respiro inside a poem an ‘orphic interval’ – for Orpheus, of course, whose lyrical poetry would tame beasts and divert the course of a river.

The proposed interval (or the quietness the precedes the birth of a metaphor) is the necessary step towards launching that frail, yet overpowering ‘hook’ that commits a poem to our memory at first glance.

If only this were true, or could be easily demonstrated, beyond some volatile empirical evidence:

"Even the sun, that more dangerous beast, has begun
his morning prowl in a spirit of negligent generosity,
… as if to say,
‘These are my wares. Yours more or less for the asking.
Of course I accept your paltry currency, your small change
   of days and hours.’"

from A Scattering, by Christopher Reid.

'as if to say' above could be in my view be construed as a proof of such an orphic interval.

“Unhastening, daylight withdraws from us its shapes
Into their central calm. Stone by stone
Your rhetoric is dispersed until the earth
Becomes once more the earth, the leaves
A sharp partition against cooling blue.”

from Farewell to Van Gogh by Charles Tomlinson.

I’d like to propose 'Becomes once more the earth' as this fragment’s orphic interval.

But clearly, I’m skating on thin ice here.

So perhaps it’s time to end this post with a few lines from a poem by Seamus Heaney:

“What are you after? You keep swerving off,
flying blind over ashpits and netting wire;
invited by the brush of a word like peignoir.”

from A Bat on the Road by Seamus Heaney.

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