In Poetry Pre-Linguistic?


What is the gap between a vivid experience of the world and my postmortem, delayed, and limping descriptions? I’m in the midst of  responding to a friend about his photos of trees and streams taken while walking. His is an immersion in the world unmediated by sentences. Perhaps the world’s address, for him, is more like a musical address than a courtroom or classroom address.

If the world’s address can at times resemble musical address, then we might be deluged by meaning yet fail to produce a linguistic  report of it. There’s no need to lament this linguistic insufficiency. There’s every reason to be grateful, as we are with musical address. Immersion in the presence of “things” (say, the presence of a musical address) happens without a gap between the “Immersed-Me” and the “World-Immersing-Me.” Worlds overflow without words.

When we’re immersed in nature’s address, or in a photo of a country path, or in the address of music, distance from the world dissolves. I may be captive by a presence — a photo of a country path.  After a pause, still partially immersed, I ask what makes the view jump out that way? The tilt of this branch? The light bouncing off water?

I stumble for articulation.  But despair is only partial as I stumble for words. Immersive wonder keeps feeding me, even as I partially break the spell in sideways attempts at articulation.

Poetry must be an ambiguous figure in a halfway house — halfway between sentences that can be easily paraphrased and an underlying musical address, which can’t be. Reading poetry can be deep immersion in a reality that we can only half-translate into straightforward discourse. The untranslatable level is often the musical level.

If this is right, poetry is partially pre-linguistic, paradoxical as that sounds. The gap between the immersed-Me and the World-immersing-me, is closed. The sounds and looks of words flow by. These poetic word-sounds are music. Poetry is partially pre-linguistic!


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