If there is any Deity to me, it’s language … Excerpt of an Interview with Joseph Brodsky



 

languageINTERVIEWER

What are your highest moments then—when you are working in the depths of language?

BRODSKY

This is what we begin with. Because if there is any deity to me, it’s language.

INTERVIEWER

Are there moments when you are writing when you are almost an onlooker?

BRODSKY

It’s awfully hard for me to answer. During the process of writing—I think these are the better hours—of deepening, of furthering the thing. You’re kind of entitled to things you didn’t know were out there. That’s what language brings you to, perhaps.

INTERVIEWER

What’s that Karl Kraus line: “Language is the divining rod that discovers wells of thought”?

BRODSKY

It’s an incredible accelerator of the cognitive process. This is why I cherish it. It’s kind of funny, because I feel in talking about language I sound like a bloody French structuralist. Since you mention Karl Kraus at least it gives it kind of a continental thing to reckon with. Well, they have culture, we have guts, we Russians and Americans.


josephbrodsky2

INTERVIEWER

What do you think happens psychically when you’ve brought the poem to a sort of dead point, to get beyond which you would have to go in a direction that you can’t yet imagine?

BRODSKY

The thing is that you can always go on, even when you have the most terrific ending. For the poet the credo or doctrine is not the point of arrival but is, on the contrary, the point of departure for the metaphysical journey. For instance, you write a poem about the crucifixion. You have decided to go ten stanzas—and yet it’s the third stanza and you’ve already dealt with the crucifixion. You have to go beyond that and add something—to develop it into something which is not there yet. Basically what I’m saying is that the poetic notion of infinity is far greater, and it’s almost self-propelled by the form. Once in a conversation with Tony Hecht at Breadloaf we were talking about the usage of the Bible, and he said, “Joseph, wouldn’t you agree that what a poet does is to try to make more sense out of these things?” And that’s what it is—there’s more sense, ya? In the works of the better poets you get the sensation that they’re not talking to people anymore, or to some seraphical creature. What they’re doing is simply talking back to the language itself—as beauty, sensuality, wisdom, irony—those aspects of language of which the poet is a clear mirror. Poetry is not an art or a branch of art, it’s something more. If what distinguishes us from other species is speech, then poetry, which is the supreme linguistic operation, is our anthropological, indeed genetic, goal. Anyone who regards poetry as an entertainment, as a “read,” commits an anthropological crime, in the first place, against himself.

Taken from:  Paris Review – The Art of Poetry No. 28, Joseph Brodsky


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Literary Musings || Joseph Brodsky & my night at the Russian Samovar

994163489-1-bigDuring the gripping cold of January nights this year, I lost myself in Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. On a June night a few months later, I’d find myself in a similar predicament. This time around, it wouldn’t be the extreme cold gripping the North-East or relentlessly nipping at the heels of  of Ivan Denisovich. No matter where I turned last night whether to the poetry of  Joseph Brodsky or the memories of the white piano belting at the Russian Samovar. I was overwhelmed with euphonious melodies.

To ears without any training in Russian, almost every song sounds like either the famed Katyusha song at one end of the spectrum or Dark eyes at the other. It isn’t too much of a stretch though to find the longing in both poet and song, for resolution, for love, for a home. Under the dictates of my creative license ‘home’ is much more than a country or a house. It’s that unique moment in either or space where our passions find an outlet without trace or understanding glance, where our sorrows and regrets find an ear and a warm hand to hold.

Even from a cursory reading of Brodsky, I find myself drawn into a kind of closeness. One that suffuses deep reflections on the human condition which I find at the core of so many of his poems.

Here’s a girl from a dangerous town
She crops her dark hair short
so that less of her has to frown
when someone gets hurt.

She folds her memories like a parachute.
Dropped, she collects the peat
and cooks her veggies at home: they shoot
here where they eat.

Ah, there’s more sky in these parts than, say,
ground. Hence her voice’s pitch,
and her stare stains your retina like a gray
bulb when you switch

hemispheres, and her knee-length quilt
skirt’s cut to catch the squall,
I dream of her either loved or killed
because the town’s too small.

~ Belfast Tune

 

My night at the Samovar was ripe with smiles, laughter, great company, carafes of vodka and pickles. The need to preserve this moment intact possible became more insistent with each shot. I’d like to think that my passion to capture snapshots of life as intact as possible with the ink of words was the source of this insistence. But I suspect part of it came from the need to feel grounded as my hold on sobriety grew less tenuous with each Na Zdorovie.

At this point, I’m realizing the extent to which I don’t fully digest an experience until I have caged it in the prison of words. Perhaps, this is why as of late, poetry has been my preferred vehicle, I feel the spaces between the bars are generously spaced. At this moment, handwritten drafts, and the greasy take-out containers cover my desk. The piano melodies have grown faint. All I hear now is a bouncing rhythm, and a haunting refrain

Zdravstvuy, moya Murka
Murka dorogaya,
Zdravstvuy, moya Murka, i proshchay
Ty zashukherila/ vsyu nashu melinu
a tyeper maslinu poluchay

In interview with Sven Birkerts in 1979 Brodsky had this to say:

” In the works of the better poets you get the sensation that they’re not talking to people any more, or to some seraphical creature. What they’re doing is simply talking back to the language itself, as beauty, sensuality, wisdom, irony, those aspects of language of which the poet is a clear mirror. Poetry is not an art or a branch of art, it’s something more. If what distinguishes us from other species is speech, then poetry, which is the supreme linguistic operation, is our anthropological, indeed genetic, goal. Anyone who regards poetry as an entertainment, as “a read”, commits an anthropological crime, in the first place, against himself. “

timthumbIt’s remarkably comforting to imagine that euphonic sounds that speak of both Murka’s betrayal, and Brodsky’s lines from Six Years Later can be at their core a talking back to language herself.  And with that said, while the memories are still fresh of the piano players frenetic fingers above the piano keys, there is a conversation I’ve been meaning to have.

So long had life together been, that once
the snow began to fall, it seemed unending;
that, lest the flakes should make her eyelids wince,
I’d shield them with my hand, and they, pretending
not to believe that cherishing of eyes,
would beat against my palm like butterflies.

Make Your Book Recommendations For July’s Book of the Month

Hey Everyone,

I read a lot, about a book a week when I am not too busy with work. With that said why don’t you make some recommendations? I would like this site to be as dynamic as possible.I will cull from the list and set up a poll. We can vote on it and proceed that way. The only rule is that we cannot suggest books our own books we have self-published or those of our friends. Any genre included. here are some book to get things started. Your input is valued.


 

 

Musing on Poetry || Private vs Public Poems

I have private poems and public poems. Public poems in this instance are the poems I send out to magazines in the hope I will see my name published in print. Private poems are poems I write to engage my deep seated thoughts. They are part of my cathartic process. For example the other day I wrote  a poem about my toilet bowl being the  only place I find release from life. That is not the kind of thing I’d ever share with online or in a magazine. I wrote that to make my lady laugh.

magnetic-poetry

Blogging is quite a personal things at times. It’s my opinion that sharing poems through that media obscures the line between public and private. A lot of poems written online are wonderfully private poems. I admire the courage of the authors to share what they are feeling, or the beauty of some private moments. It’s pretty touching, considering I am a stranger, to be let into someone else’s cathartic processes.

To that end, I have seen that there are a myriad of uses for poetry. I learned last week about poetry therapist from the National Association for Poetry Therapy. The term “poetry therapy” encompasses bibliotherapy (the interactive use of literature) and journal therapy (the use of life-based reflective writing) as well as therapeutic storytelling, the use of film in therapy, and other language-based healing modalities.” “Poetry therapists work in mental health, medical, geriatric, therapeutic, educational and community settings.

It’s great to see poetry being used this way. Every one of us is in need of healing Yet for those of us interested in become the next celebrated poet where does this leave us ? Adding to the mix that poetry reading has declined greatly over the last few decades, it makes the honing of one’s craft all the more difficult I feel.

There’s debate about the exact statistical rate and the causes of the decline, and there are many good venues for poetry today, yet the number of adults who read poetry, as surveyed by the NEA, decreased by approximately half in the past two decades. Less than 10 percent of adults read any poetry at all. – taken from: http://www.narrativemagazine.com/sixth-annual-poetry-contest

I’m committed to this genre. I love poetry and to that end want to promote the craft side of it. This is one of the reasons this site was created: to show not just poetry but all forms of literary expression in the grandest light. I want to reintroduce an appreciate for poetry. Poetry doesn’t have to be obtuse or completely abstract. It can be something enlightening and fun. To that end I will be going over poem dissecting them and talking about them with anyone who wants to talk. I will also be talking techniques and other things etc.

I look forward to hearing from you