Friday, August 6, 2010

Language Remade

From a lecture on modern poetry:
Life in the modern metropolis [...] denaturalized language. Where there are many languages in use, language comes to seem arbitrary rather than natural--as the product of convention. Not as something you're simply born into, but something that is learned. Something that is made, and that can be re-made.
And so modern poetry is a re-making of language? Hmm. I can certainly see that with, for instance, e.e. cummings. Or T.S. Eliot's language-blending is a kind of language re-creation, too.

Maybe all poetry is a remaking of language, because it restructures the sentences. A natural sentence can have many different skeletal shapes, as can a poetical sentence, but the sentences (when they are sentences) in poems take on different forms, as though their bones have been removed, or taken apart and put back together in new ways.

A poem asks you to look at the lines and see the words themselves, not just their sense--the way a painting of a nude asks you to look at the body and see the skin and shadows, instead of going straight to seeing the person. The painting remakes the body and thus remakes the person; the poem remakes the language, so as to remake the meaning.

Because really, a poem isn't about the words. It's a portrait of a piece of life, and language is just the paint.

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