Monday, August 30, 2004

Nate, I very much liked the Breton quote about the table, and don't think I had heard it before. I think it says a great deal about how the ambiguity of an image works. We certainly have all encountered in workshops those unfortunate poets who are so devoted to the idea of ambiguity in a poem but can't tell the difference between ambiguity that adds to the poem and ambiguity that just leaves one with a head-scratch. How culturally useful an image is is pretty important. A table makes a strong image not because so many different occasions may be interpreted out of it but because each has social meaning attached to it. The idea of the table inflates no matter which table rises up in the mind.

Why is it that all literature and especially poetry makes use of image drastically more than our regular speech? (For even the more abstract literature still uses more image than the everyday.) Part of it must be this business of the realm of literature being one where something previously inexpressed is expressed and this is somehow more possible/easier? through imagery. Why, because abstraction purely can only be reached through logic and so the original abstract thought is more difficult to come by? Or is literature too coy to trade in such embarrasingly naive directness? It's fine in public, but literature is nothing if not ever searching for the proper stage lighting.

We keep speaking of image and abstraction as polarity. Where would this put something that is a very abstract concreteness, such as if one were to write a description of say a Rothko painting but not clue the reader in to what it is being described? Besides blurring the line, I think this type of imagery can be quite useful, although I suppose many would find it off-putting.


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