Thursday, May 10, 2018

Fossil poetry

I’m tempted to say writing is what keeps me sane, but I think we’d better reserve judgment on that. The opposite could easily be true. Writing might be what keeps me insane. Or, my insanity might be what keeps me writing. Then again, it might be my sanity that keeps me writing — though it should also be noted that writing is an insane act — at least according to several sane people I’ve known — who were, in fact, miserable, because their sanity prevented them from seeing how insane they were, and from enjoying the fact. . . . Yesterday after running an errand downtown on Ferry Street, I walked up High Street to State Street, crossed State, continued past the old Grand Theater, which seems to have been re-designated as a church, turned left on Court Street, crossed the alley, and entered a used-book store called The Book Bin. After searching for about one minute, I found the Mother’s Day gift I was looking for: a hardbound copy of Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. Then, on the shelf behind me, I found a copy of the second series of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays. The essays were originally published in 1844. The copy I found was published in 1892 in Philadelphia, by Henry Altemus. I bought both books, then, so as not to retrace my steps entirely, headed up the alley back toward Ferry Street. In the alley I passed a young man and young woman sitting with their backs against the brick wall of the book store. They were deep in conversation. Last night I read the first essay, “The Poet,” from which I quote: . . . For, though the origin of most of our words is forgotten, each word was at first a stroke of genius, an obtained currency, because for the moment it symbolized the world to the first speaker and to the hearer. The etymologist finds the deadest word to have been once a brilliant picture. Language is fossil poetry. . . . And there you have it — one more reason to go on writing, and to go on being insane. Or, to quote from an as-yet-unwritten poem: He loved her, only to find he had driven her sane. / And wept, for in so doing, had made of her a stranger.

May 10, 2003 — One Hand Clapping,
a daily journal in two volumes,
March 17, 2003 — March 15, 2005


JFM said...

Well, now that I am insane the sane thing to do is not to admit to it and follow your lead which explains the sanity of being insane! But I have forgotten where I was going with this and now I am stuck in this big, black void with no idea how to get back to reality so I am going to take a nap!!!

Have a great day my clever and intelligent but insane/sane friend 😉

William Michaelian said...

Thanks! A nap — now, why didn’t I think of that?

Jonathan Chant said...

Seems eminently sane to me. Hope all is well with you, William.

William Michaelian said...

It is, Jonathan, and I hope the same for you. Thanks. You have always been generous where my sanity and insanity are concerned.

Stream Source said...

All familiar streets... as is our shared insanity.

William Michaelian said...

And that’s the busiest street of all.