Thursday, September 26, 2013

ModPo 2013 #15 Glaucium Fimbrelligerum and new concepts of beauty: On Doolittle's Sea Poppies

Glaucium Fimbrillegerum image from (creative commons). 

Sea Poppies

BY H. D.
Amber husk
fluted with gold,
fruit on the sand
marked with a rich grain,

spilled near the shrub-pines
to bleach on the boulders:

your stalk has caught root
among wet pebbles
and drift flung by the sea
and grated shells
and split conch-shells.

Beautiful, wide-spread,
fire upon leaf,
what meadow yields
so fragrant a leaf
as your bright leaf?

I was wondering why we were taking up two very similar poems (Sea Rose and Sea Poppies) and I was struck by the question in the video discussion about whether "Sea Poppies" is an instance in a movement working out a program, a formula of sorts? And was it possible to remove valuation/ interpretation from language?

"Language that is hard and clear" (from the imagist manifesto) goes against the nature of language. While specificity is needed in some language, language in itself is a powerful and living thing. It is a frame and it requires at least two participants for it to exist.

I think the imagist movement doesn't eliminate valuation or interpretation (while it attempts to) but it does succeeds in defining  new aesthetic. It points to new possibilities, new symbols of what could be beautiful and not what is conventionally beautiful. That in itself is a great breakthrough. But yes, I agree, it is overly ambitious to aspire for a transparent language (if there even is such a thing).

I go back to one of my favorite poems, "Ars Poetica", by Archibald MacLeish. "A poem should be equal to:/ Not true." While MacLeish is known to be a Modernist poet, his "manifesto" on poetry touches on the imagist "hard and clear, never blurred or indefinite." I don't think it means the same thing, though. MacLeish talks about presenting what is without confusing it with "truth" while the imagist manifesto of producing poetry that is "hard and clear" which could mean presenting "what is" using the most economic means and using "particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities." "Equal to" doesn't demand the elimination of blurriness or the indefinite. It just deals with what is before the poet. It might be an image.

Ultimately, poetry is a conversation. I like the new avenues of conversation that the imagists bring but I am excited to explore how the conversation has evolved over time.

Note: I am currently taking a course on called Modern and Contemporary American Poetry taught by Al Filreis of the University of Pennsylvania. I will be posting my thoughts on the course discussions here.

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