Language, as the existence of poetry signifies, inherently and inexorably fails. Produced by an individual who is by definition subjective, isolated, individual, for the communication of a message (thought, emotion, etc.), to be better understood by another, language must fail: it is too linear, too ordered, too exact, too categorical to convey that which created it, the thought and feeling that surround it, the world-gaze and intention behind it, the necessary disorder and inconstancy and deceit and feeling of the mind that authored it. Language — or ordered, grammatical language (which too is forged out of disorder) — if failing to convey to another one’s intended message and the thoughts around and beyond it, must therefore fail to convey oneself, one’s internal feeling and being, to another.
We, then, cannot be understood and are thus alone — our existence being internal, isolated, confined in itself — our thought and feeling unspeakable. Language, predestined to fail, is then a blind struggle not to fail, to convey our thought and being. In speaking, writing, expressing, we struggle to convey ourselves, our world-gaze, our feeling, to another — and speak merely a fragment of that which we intend, translate our entire being and thought and feeling into the linearity of sentences for the world’s understanding, become a shadow, a shell of ourselves to another, achieve a fragmented, failed understanding of what we are — an entire, self-contradictory, immeasurable and insurmountable being reduced to absolute, short, shallow words.
Language, therefore, is an unwavering line, a tyranny which allows neither contradiction nor profundity nor human, subjective truth. We must search everywhere else, above and beneath and around words to attempt to understand (however vainly) another’s thought and feeling and being. Language, therefore, is false — a lie.
And yet we are not left in total ignorance, total night — there are the stars and the moon which shine for us, their light for our perception, illuminating the world as we perceive it, light that serves us and is in a sense created by us — existing only as we perceive.
I do not mean to stray. That light — born of the falsity and vanity of language, born of the struggle of language to overcome its impotence and itself — is poetry.
Poetry not as substance, syntax, form or intention but as action, expression, aggression towards the thing (as Pound conceived; the object, poetry’s objective), the feverish clamor and dissonance of words that ends in impact (as Pound called it), impression of raw human feeling, thought, being. This collision — of author and reader, existence and empathy, thought and understanding, humanity and humanity — this impression of feeling, of being onto the reader produces an understanding, finds message and meaning completely senselessly, instinctually, unforcedly, unwittingly — meaning needn’t be labored after, phrases needn’t be explained expressions needn’t be made literal, the writing needn’t and mustn’t be reduced to a construction of technique and wit, a formula, a commodity.
Poetry (in whatever form), like objective truth, like any art, merely, silently exists — creating itself, existing by and for itself, itself an end. And poetic message is merely seen, heard — instantly internalized by the reader, for it is of the internal human world and cannot survive outside of it. Poetic message is felt by the reader as if their own feeling, thought as if their own thought, lived as if their own being — remembered, not learned.
Language is then poetry’s carrier. Poetry is not language; it surrounds, transcends language. Poetry, therefore, is not the poem. Poetry is the means and end by which the individual reaches the thing (the object, their own thought, their being) and impresses it onto another (the reader).
We thus find that poetry overcomes the failure of language, overcomes language; that poetry, if not language, is feeling, thought, human existence. Language does no more than surround, approach the thing; poetry lunges at it, takes it for its own.
Poetry, then, is aggression; it is conquest of and triumph over language and over the thing and over ourselves. Poetry transcends and overcomes — unspeakable, unreasonable, blind, deaf and nothing if not human.
Nickolas is a columnist for the Paper Crane.
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