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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope


"Perhaps no terms have been so injurious to the profession of the novelist as those two words, hero and heroine."

Negative Capability

     I've been taking language classes in the city with some consistency--I began Italian, I continued French. The most recent return to French has been a grave disappointment; in having to learn the rules of things I knew instinctively--having learned the language as an eight year old--I found a new definition of knowing and a dissatisfaction with structured learning.  I knew certain lessons without understanding the rules; in trying to learn the rules, I lost the lesson. Things I knew were no longer clear, and yet what I had known was not based in anything I could define.
     When I decided to finally bite the bullet, and sign up for a poetry workshop, I smiled reflectively--perhaps I had been studying language when all I really wanted to do was speak.  As I read through past entries on this blog, specifically those for several months of 2009, I am reminded of a discovery; of learning to live with mystery.  An idea articulated to me at the time by Keats.  Like language, I suppose, that which we learn to live with can become unlearned with living, and so I think I as I struggled to understand the rules, to read the signs, I returned to the idea of poetry as a means to soothe my attempts at rigidity.
     Upon returning home from a rather poetic journey to Edinburgh to visit family I had spent years imagining, or dreaming about--there is no greater ordered mystery than what your mind designs when it is at rest--I found waiting for me in my inbox readings for the workshop I'd signed up for.  There he was again, Keats waving to me from beyond, emboldening my soul to accept mystery--to be "capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." Suddenly, the title of the class became clear: "Shadows and Mayhem." It means nothing and everything--it seeks.  There is also an essay from Fanny Howe called "Bewilderment"which describes poetry as a way to "resolve the unresolvable."  
  Randomness, uncertainty, bewilderment: this is how the middle of my day looks.  Sometimes, in the morning, I awake with surprise to find myself alone ( I am sure my dreams are populated).  Sometimes, at evening, I refute mystery with searing diligence (I will not look anywhere I can't see). "For myself," writes Howe, "a poem emerges by itself, like something developing in a dark place.  First I see the impression of a time period as an experience of pure language, glimpses of actions, emotions and weathers.  I jot down whatever comes through--in a rush of words.  Then I begin to see what is being said and to see it as it unfolds . . . ."  And there, I suppose, is the clarity in bewilderment,  the raising of the eye curtain, the serendipity of a chance meeting, the supreme engineering of a bridge: strength, structure, grace, and beauty; male and female, support and passage; a constant communication of wires and stone, a balancing act of math and mystery.