"Bred of the accident of rain and river,
Yet in its build as certain as a circle"


Wow!

CR

On Aug 14, 2013, at 9:28 AM, David Boyd <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I would make a poem
Precise as a pair of scissors, keen,
Cold and asymmetrical, the blades
Meeting like steel lovers to define
The clean shape of the image.

I would make a poem
Organic as an orchid, red
Flowers condensed from dew, with every lobe
Fitted like a female to receive
The bee’s fathering head.

I would make a poem
Solid as a stone, a thing
You can take up, turn, examine and put down;
Bred of the accident of rain and river,
Yet in its build as certain as a circle,
An axiom of itself.

(A poet on a poem)


On 14 August 2013 03:30, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I always start my poetry class with a fascinating illustration of this problem. In 1965 Kenneth Buthlay wrote to the TLS that Hugh MacDiarmid's poem "Perfect" was the great imagist poem that none of the Imagists wrote. someone responded that the real problem was that it was not a poem and MacDiarmid did not write it. Then the writer added a paragraph from a Welsh story that was almost exactly the same but not in line cuts. The changes in the lines themselves are minimal, but there is now a title, an epigraph in Spanish, line cuts, and a few but essential word changes. We probably would call it a "found poem." But it started a long set of exchanges about plagiarism (ironically never evoked by all Eliot's borrowings) and what is really poetry. It went on for weeks.
 
So I give both versions to students to decide if it is poetry and if MacDiarmid wrote it. I don't care which they decide, only what criteria and arguments they offer. MacDiarmid himself absolutely denied borrowing, and since he was a voracious reader of anything and everything he could get his hands on, he may well have just internalized the main passage. Regardless, it is a fascinating example of the difficulty of both defining "poetry" and evaluating "authorship."
 

 

                                                                        Perfect

 

                                                On the Western Seaboard of South Uist                   

                                           (Los muertos abren los ojos a los que viven)

 

I found a pigeon?s skull on the machair,

All the bones pure white and dry, and chalky,

But perfect,

Without a crack or a flaw anywhere.

 

At the back, rising out of the beak,

Were twin domes like bubbles of thin bone,

Almost transparent, where the brain had been

That fixed the tilt of the wings.

 

 

 

machair: low-lying beach (Gaelic)

The Spanish epigraph means ?The dead open the eyes of those who live.?

 

From ?Porth-y-rhyd,? a short story by Glyn Jones

 

Tudor held her wrist, wet, and cold as iron, and drew her to the window, and on her palm lay the small frail skull of a seagull, white, and complete as a pebble.  It was lovely, all the bones pure white and dry and chalky, but perfect without a crack or a flaw anywhere.  At the back, rising out of the beak were twin bubbles of thin bone, almost transparent, where the brain had been that fixed the tilt of the wings, with the contour of the delicate sutures inked in a crinkled line across the skull, and where the brow-bone sloped down into the beak were two dark holes like goggles where the eyes had shown out of the feathers. . . . 

 
Nancy

>>> Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> 08/13/13 7:14 PM >>>
You are probably right. I share with most literary scholars an urge to
classify -- an urge constantly undermined by an equal urge to justify the
classifying theoretically. Line cuts (and WCW is certainly the classical
instance here) do distinguish a pretty large body of texts from another
large body of texts. But the exception of "prose poems" sadly diminishes the
elegance of the distinction.

Letting my fingers think here. The _label_ "prose poem" violates harshly
what one might call the "ordinary" (non-technical) sense of the two words:
it''s an oxymoron. Now, do all prose poems somehow or other let it be known
that they are prose poems, not asomd prose note? If they appear in _Poetry_
magazine, the reference is made and the reader thinks, "Prose Poem." If they
appear in a volume entitled Selected (or Collected) Poems of X, the phrase
is elicited. But if we were to find a typed paper blowing down the street,
with one paragraph on it we would not spontaneously say "Ah! A prose poem."
(And I have read scholarly books with a ragged right margin -- probably not
relevant.) SO: Is it essential to a Prose Poem to announce itself, somehow,
as such -- i.e., must all such poems deliberately violate the reader's sense
of the words "prose" and "poem," yoking them by violence. Prose Poems have
to be labeled as such; otherwise they are fragments of prose. The reader
must think as she reads, "This prose is not prose," or something like that.
If they were not implicitly labeled as Prose Poems, would one of Eliot's
prose poems appear, rather, to be a fragment from a personal letter?

Now, another peculiarity of that sentence from Austen is that the main
clause is about the reader him/herself: that is, if the acknowledgment is
"universal" then the reader must be included among those who acknowledge the
truth of the subordinate clause. And since there must be at least a few
readers who don't so acknowledge that the sentence in fact refutes itself.
And a self-refuting sentence has a completeness of its own -- a completeness
not undermined by the fact that its meaning changes as we read the inal
chapters, in which Darcy admits that he can only, real, in which Darcy
admits that he can only, really, _be_ Darcy as the husband of Elikzabeth. To
be himself, he had to be completed: he was indeed in want of a wife, a
particular one. But the sentence itself does not need that development to
have some real independence. Suppose I were to give it a title and publish
it as my own poem: would that make it a prose poem by Carrol Cox?

Incidentally, "literature" itself cannot actually be theorized, since we
can't, really, distinguish literature from non-literature. I guess we can,
however, theorize that non-theorizable quality. Perhaps.

Carrol