Monday, November 27, 2006

Nebulous Ideas

I have a sort of nebulous cloud hanging around me made out of diverse ideas which may have some relation to each other. Let me try and write them down.

(1) The growth of primate brains evolved in direct response to a need for growing communication requirements. According to David Attenborough, primate specialists are able to look at the size of a monkey brain and assess what size of social group that monkey lives in. Primates with small brains live isolated lives. Primates with large brains (such as man) live in large groups, communicate all the time, and rely enormously on this communication for their survival.

(2) Levi-Strauss believes that it is through language that man became separated from nature. Other animals communicate as well so that poses the question is there something particular about the language of humans which separates them from other animals? Levi-Strauss follows Rousseau in thinking that man became self-conscious - aware of himself as a member of a we-group - when he became capable of employing metaphor as an instrument of constrast and comparison. The first time this metaphor was applied was when man recognised the diversity of other animals as a way of metaphorically describing social differentiation. For example: I am a lion man, you are a worm man.

(3) What is the poet with repect to the rest of humanity? Is the poet something special? Is writing poetry a special gift, or can anyone acquire this skill? A lot of poets I have met have not really been group people, capable of holding their own in fast conversation. They are, generally, outsiders and fairly isolated individuals. Is writing poetry a compensation for lack of oral communication skills? It should be noted that Plato wished to expel poets from his ideal Republic. I think that really good poetry actually undermines language. Poetry is ambiguous by nature, it is unclear. Thus, going back to (1), it undermines the social good by muddying the waters of clear communication.

(4) Why is French poetry so concerned with abstract thinking around metaphors. I read a large chunk of 'Women's Poetry in France' the other evening and was totally overwhelmed by the homegeneity of this style of abstraction. I found myself thinking: doesn't any of these women have a pet cat she would like to write about? Is poetry in France just a mental gymnasium for abstract thinking? Was my frustration the same as Plato's?

(5) When Guillevic writes a poem about a stone, he is not actually writing about the stone, he is writing about the void which the stone represents. The stone becomes a metaphor for a nothingness where it is no longer necessary to seek answers. This is a complaint against humanity's allotted role to quest, and in questing thereby exploiting and destroying. He envies the stone its peace. The stone's own form is its philosophy, it 'finds peace in perspectives'. Guillevic finds his own peace in studying geometry. Making poems that are solid as stone out of reflections on geometry. Does he say anything about nature itself in all this? I don't think so. He merely states: Nature doesn't ask questions.

(6) When Caillois writes a poem about a stone, he is actually seeking natural laws. He will try to apply this law to something else. If he is able to do this, he will derive some satisfaction in the influence of some higher (divine/natural) power controlling all things. He will be satisfied that making the connection wil justify the case, rather than seeking after underlying complex science, and he will be happy that he leaves the universe a more connected place. He seems stones as particularities, objects for individual worship. As opposed to Guillevic who sees all stones as the same, equally lucky or unlucky.

(8) Magpies also appreciate the attractive qualities of precious stones.

(9) Why write about stone anyway? Why not write about potatoes? I have noted that many of the women in the book I mentioned use metaphors derived from seeds and growing things rather than stones or objects. I thought then of the stone age tribes where the men exchange stone axes (their symbol of masculinity doubling as a representation of woman) and the women who are responsible for growing things and collecting food in nets (symbol of womanhood). Stones are the symbol of manhood par excellance. Phallic menhirs have recently been installed over the central esplanade of La Defense.

(10) The poet is a maker of culture. Every piece of culture the poet makes, separates him/her further from nature. If you believe that culture is not nature, which may be debateable. Does it not bring us nearer to nature to realise that French male poets obsess about stones and French female poets obsess about plants?

(11) I read a very good poem yesterday in which Elizabeth Bishop transformed a poorly developed rock rose (gypsum crystal) into the body of her lover on the grounds that her lover was a rose with sharp edges. She did this using literary 'magic'. Was it this use of 'magic' which annoyed Plato? Not a very logical conception is it?

(12) So, hang subject matter and elemental laws. Hang cultural or natural constraints. Hang thinking about where it all comes from. Do the trick and make the trick work in such a way that everyone sees that it has worked but leaving no way of explaining exactly how it worked or even that it was a trick at all.

1 comment:

Patry Francis said...

I don't know why, but lately I have been very fascinated by stones. Every time I come home from a walk, I seem to have a new one in my pocket. They really are quite miraculous.