Thursday, October 19, 2006

Form as Meaning

I am listening to a Japanese pop song (off the songtrack to Lost in Translation) while I work on my questions this morning and I am absolutely struck by the way form carries over even without language. I don't understand Japanese, but I know this song is a pop song immediately when I listen to it and I am just as struck by the pop form (just as I would be if this song were in English, only I have left of a tendency to sing along when the song is in Japanese [ which is why I am listening to it while I am working on my questions]. I don't know why, but this really struck me this morning. Maybe it's because I am writing about the differences between form in poetry. Who knows. I guess it is the structure and sound of something that reaches the listener (or reader for the matter) above all else and creates the immediate emotional response. I wish I could place a soundclip in here so you could hear the song I am talking about, but I have no idea how to do that. The song is called, "Kaze Wo Atsumete." But if you speak Japanese, don't tell me what it means. Just like Randall Jarrell in "Deutsch Durch Freud," I prefer to not to completely understand, to just have the gist of it, as it floats down to me in its silly little pop form.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


by W.S. Merwin


First forget
what time it is
for an hour
do it regularly
every day
then forget
what day of the week it is
do this regularly for a week

then forget what country you are in
and practice doing it in company
for a week
then do them together
for a weekwith as few breaks as possible
follow these by forgetting how to add
or to subtract
it makes no difference
you can change them around
after a week
both will help you later to forget how to count
forget how to count
starting with your own age
starting with how to count backward
starting with even numbers
starting with Roman numerals
starting with fractions of Roman numerals
starting with the old calendar
going on to the old alphabet
going on to the alphabet
until everything is continuous again
go on to forgetting elements
starting with water
proceeding to earth
rising in fire
forget fire

I was debating whether or not to go for a sort run to try and clear the cobwebs from my brain so I can write again and I came across this poem by Merwin. He is so elementally lyric. And I always think of him, with his boyish smile, walking through the rainforests of Maui. He must be in his 70s now, but to me, he'll always be 40 or so (however old he was on the cover of some anthology I read where I fell in love with him for the first time). I am spending the day writing on my questions. Matt took the kids to his aunt's house. I think one of my questions is done. Now, just three to go. I am working on getting up the momentum to begin another one and procrastinating with poems once again.