Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What to say

What to say, except that words betray their meaning,
and that their betrayal is what we understand?

This? that even if they were clay,
we could never hold them in our hand?†

† That is, if the betrayal isn’t ours of them.


Joseph Hutchison said...

This is one of your most profound poems, William, with the kicker sequestered (if I dare use that term) in the footnote. I just finished Lisa Jarnot's biography of Robert Duncan, in which she notes his opposition to "Language Poetry" as something based on the notion that "a medium can never be the basis of art." It seems to me this is the kind of betrayal you're talking about: the impulse to read a weakness and failure into words when the weakness is in us. There are many poets with so little of substance to say that they turn to the medium (language) in order to invest their lack in it, then whine about how it "fails" the world, the mind, etc. They project upon it their own failure; they betray what it has to offer.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Joe.

Self-deluded heroes, if they had the courage of their convictions, they would remain silent; but that is more than their egos can withstand. How else, if not through their vain scratchings, can the world be aware of their noble suffering? And where do the complaints stop? With nature itself? Certainly, everything must be inferior to such refined, martyred intellects.†

Words — meanings lost, imagined, or implied — there is simply no limit to language, its wealth and possibility — and that is the mere surface of it, this ancient tree upon which we carve our initials.

† To be read, perhaps even sung, with a smile.