Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: sometimes it's just hard for words

Friday, April 4, 2008

sometimes it's just hard for words

by Katie Taylor

It's been happening for about a month now, this disconcerting sense that I am losing my easy grasp on whatever fibers those are that connect my intended meaning with the expression of it that follows.

I am constantly doubting that anything I say or write makes sense. Emails and conversations are littered with "Does that make sense?" and "I'm not expressing it well" and "Do you understand what I'm trying to say?" And people respond "yes" or "no" or "I think so," but it doesn't leave me feeling any more assured that I've felted language and meaning together properly.

And another disconnection: I know this happens—I understand it intellectually. I've written about it, language dissolving when experience bursts its seams. Think about Toni Morrison in those school primer passages in The Bluest Eye. Think about Finnegan's Wake or Septimus Smith. Think about The New York Trilogy.

But I find more and more as I accumulate experiences that intellectual understanding does not prepare you for experiencing things during whatever present in which they occur. They're separate forms of knowing.

by Fay Ku

I was reminded the other day of the concept of the un-thought known. It's a term from psychoanalysis (if I understand it correctly) that refers to the knowledge a child accumulates that is never consciously given to her and that she doesn't knowingly receive. It's not a kind of knowledge that we can take stock of and it functions extralingually.

I keep hoping that maybe knowledge works a bit like a hybrid engine, with one part kicking in for the other when necessary. Maybe my un-thought known is picking up the slack these days.


melissa said...

I particularly like the use of the phrase "felted together" here...
I have a feeling there's some sort of fundamental link between our unthought knowns because I ALWAYS know what you're talking about...


Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

That's so true, honey.

I had - and this is pretty much in line with the whole post - some uncertainty about whether one felts things together or if one just felts things.

But I kind of like it, too.

betsy q. bramble said...

I imagine that as a writer, it must be hard for you to feel like you are not communicating properly. But I think the fact that you are a poet should be considered, in that what you do as a poet is reassemble words to express the meanings of other words, as well as a way. Words many times removed to stand in for unthought knowns? Bah..what a difficult game.

I was thinking of revising all that up there, but maybe it will serve as a test of our communication. If you understand what I mean, so ineloquently stated, then you and I...will be okay.

Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

I've often thought about the kind of exponential representation of meaning that happens in poetry as having its own indistinct and beautiful algebra.

It's interesting to think of it as a game, too, though. I think the two thoughts we've had are similar.

And - poetry's realm is totally that of the untought known.

Zachary Pelham said...

its always been interesting to me that there are people who never think twice about how acutely they say things, and never feel the need to end every sentence with "do you know what i mean" or preface every sentence with context and repetition. and there are those that do. im definitly one that does, and i hate it. i dont always do it, but sometimes i get into a funk for a while and i just cant align my words with my thoughts the way i want, and other times, when it flows so perfect i wanna find everyone i know and tell them everything i think, now that im in the you know what i mean?

Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

Sometimes, too, I think the "do you know what I mean" is an utterly absurd question. What am I getting at with it? Usually if I'm asking it, it means that I already know I'm not saying what I mean, so how could I expect anyone to actually understand? Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we get into a habit of asking others if they know what we mean, because of the fear that the person we are speaking with doesn't, but won't ask, isn't listening, or doesn't really care. If I don't understand something you've said, I'll ask you to clarify, because I really want to know. But most of the time I do understand, and I am generally marveling in how much better you expressed that thought than I would have.