Saturday, January 31, 2015

one's library's hidden depths

there are books on my shelves that I have (almost) never opened, books that have been there for years, even decades, without my attention becoming directed to their pages - one such is William Carlos Williams's Paterson, Books I - V, (London, MacGibbon & Kee, 1964) - not because I made any sort of decision against it, but simply, with my incredibly slow reading speed and along with more other books than I feel comfortable about, I haven't got around to it - Paterson of course is one of the primary modernist works, even if Charles Olson did give it a hard time, and ought to have been in my consciousness a long time before now - so, I open it at random, and here it is on page 65, in Book II - 

Without invention nothing is well spaced,
unless the mind change, unless
the stars are new measured, according
to their relative positions, the
line will not change, the necessity
will not matriculate: unless there is
a new mind there cannot be a new
line, the old will go on
repeating itself with recurring
deadliness. . . 

and I am perk'd up, straight away, knowing that this is not just a view for then, but for now, and for me - how I have over the years invented fresh forms, knowing that without fresh form there is no fresh content - if I can put Robert Creeley's great phrase - 

form is never more than an extension of content

alongside another which says -

content is always an expression of form

tho the replacement of 'extension' with 'expression' poses its own difficulties, I am prick'd again by ageing's wish for comfort (in my case, anyway, I just wanna sit down), to realise I have still to keep alert to new inventions (John Cage said he invented rather than created, and I deeply respect that) - Williams's Paterson was a great invention, still is, even to having lines angled on the page - and the mix of poetry & prose, the shifting layers of space within & between the lines, and flight of punctuation, like stars from the centre of the universe, all with multiple voices & voicings that constitute a city and a person - I suspect Williams knew more about a city than Olson did, but then all of us know something more about something than others do - the answer to the question What do I know? is always both 'nothing' and 'everything', all-at-once, all-the-time -