Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: "we pass on // to another cellar, to another sliced wall / where poor utensils show / like rare objects in a museum"

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"we pass on // to another cellar, to another sliced wall / where poor utensils show / like rare objects in a museum"

It makes sense.  It makes sense if poetry makes sense to you.  Or maybe it makes sense if you've oriented yourself - deliberately - toward poetry.

The three poets to which I was most drawn as a girl were William Butler Yeats, Walt Whitman, and Anne Sexton. Because of the nature of my reading habits (pulling things from my parents' shelves and delving), I only read one book by each early on - the cheap penguin Irish writers paperback that one or the other parent bought somewhere along the way for 25 cents, the gorgeous illustrated edition of Leaves of Grass, and The Book of Folly.

Each of these, in their own way, has a propensity for layering things one upon another. Whitman, of course, layers himself on everyone else. Sexton layers herself upon herself:
It is waiting. / It is waiting. / Mr. Doppelgänger. My brother. My spouse. / Mr. Doppelgänger. My enemy. My lover. [from "The Other"]

[I've sat like this for as long as I can remember - one leg snaking around the other - my own skin pressing on my own skin, fast with pressure.]

And Yeats. Well, Yeats, with his famously widening gyre, does it most transparently, doesn't he?

I can't help but think that, having oriented myself toward this kind of layering, I am somehow primed to suss it out in my life. And yet, it doesn't give rise to any less wonder each time my life folds back onto itself, all overlapping and resignified. Lessons, people, opportunities (missed and present) serve themselves up again and again.

And my response - always - is that quickening clutch of throat and that almost immediate impulse to think of gyres, of palimpsests, of pentimento.

[The Hay Wain, by John Constable]

I suppose that's the nature of pentimento - you make a choice, repent, cover it up, but then it slowly reveals itself under the façade you established, however meticulously.


Dark Fantom said...

i realy like this post. it made me think of when i was a kid and found and read an old yellowed, coverless copy of collected robert frost on my parents bookshelf. your post made me think of this precurssor to your pentimentos, from the old frost book (which i've dusted off to properly quote): "two roads diverged in a yellow wood, / and sorry i could not travel both / and be one traveler"

odd you should post about this subject recently. ive been mulling over some similar ideas about the recurrences of things in my life. and whether they are the old showing through still, or the new, repeating in recognizable pattern.

ps. i emailed u a while back- got ur address from jv- not sure if u got it or not. hope ur well.

Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

Hi Zach -

Isn't it kind of magical when you find an old book of your parents? I think it's continuing to effect me as I get older, but in different ways. For instance, I'm older now than they were when they got a lot of those now-musty paperbacks.

And - yes - it seems sometimes like life really just folds over onto itself.

I will email as soon as I can, kay?

Dark Fantom said...

no rush, just wanted to make sure u got it