July 19, 2010

The beauty and awfulnes of the filiation

Reading Donald Justice's New and Selected Poems, I stopped at the poem "Sonatina in Yellow" and re-read it a few times. Something about it captured me and made me want to get deeper and understand it better.

The pages of the album,
As they are turned, turn yellow; a word,
Once spoken, obsolete,
No longer what was meant. Say it.
The meanings come, or come back later,
Unobtrusive, taking their places.


Forgotten sunlight still
Blinds the eyes of faces in the album.
The faces fade, and there is only
A sort of meaning that comes back,
Or for the first time comes, but comes too late
To take the places of the faces
Luckily, via Google Books, I found a paragraph in Dana Gioia & William Logan's "Certain Solitudes - On the poetry of Donald Justice", which elucidates the essence of this poem better:
The dead belong here, because our relation with them must be circular. They have prepared us for their place, and we have taken it. The hushed tone that marks Justice's voice mounts to reverence as he evokes his relation to his father in "Sonatina in Yellow." Here, the ambiguities, continuities, and repetitions move parallel to memory and forgetfulness, in a sequence impressively like a musical modulation. Love for the dead suggests love for the past, the poet's desire to keep with him the beauty and awfulnes of the filiation that he will hand on in his turn; and the imagination then seems our one genuine weapon against mortality.
Indeed! Reality bites but the imagination lets us fight back. Like Wallace Stevens said, "The imagination is man's power over nature."

"...much of the world of fact is the equivalent of the world of the imagination because it looks like it. Here we are on the border of the question of the relationship between the imagination and memory, which we avoid. It is important to believe that the visible is the equivalent of the invisible." - Wallace Stevens (The Figure of the Youth as Virile Poet)

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