Sunday, May 07, 2006

5.07.06b, About the Poem, Pt. 2

"Do Not Go Gentle,” Exegesis, Pt 2:

Let me start by pointing out the error of mhermeneuticic ways. An error in the aesthetic analysis, Kant (the rule- and time-bound philosopher) would chide me: the basis of Kant's chiding however in fact reveals one of Kant's major flaws, especially in relation to aesthetic theory, i.e., his overly rigorous structure of rules and exclusions that is absolutely necessary to make his system work--that's another essay (e.g. I go after him a bit in an essay called "Negative Aeshetics," which I think is coming out in some minor UW publication, a coference volume, this year, FYI). The positive point to learn from him, which I concede here, regards my evaluation “sucks ass,” which is not an aesthetic judgment. Coming around backside to my point, the chiding would stem not only from my assessment dealing with a secondary judgment based on how the artwork signifies but more fundamentally on the fact that the very assessment is not disinterested, not objective, rational, detached if you will. But that's Kant. For me, I conflated the What of the poem, or even more-and/or-less, the signified of the poem, with the How of the poem, the various signifiers and their interrelations--something I always stress that my students have to distinguish. Death does suck, granted; but that is not an aesthetic judgment. It might be personal, familial, social, metaphysical, something--but not aesthetic, unless it be through the actual aestheticization of death as Bataille was wont to perform. It is one possible route, however it’s not my idiom, and in terms of how this poems works (aesthetic) it’s not the point. Rather, the poetic key here (in part) is the contradiction, tension, the negativity at work and the subtlety in the form of the piece. Subtlety, despite the rhymy-stymy aspect of the villanelle.

There is the gentle entry & a “good” night (l. 1 and throughout). The fact that “Old age” cannot really rage, nor can terminal pain/disability, at least not easily (l. 2). The wise have knowledge, but not enough to fork lightning with their words (ll.4-6). The good whose deeds are frail, trapped in the subjunctive--forever (ll. 7-9); the wild, too rash and unobservant (ll. 10-12); the grave, Teresian but too late (ll. 13-15); and the twist with the father, the Father, deserves its own entry but is also summed up in "curse, bless” in one too realistic fell swoop. Throughout, the speaker implies that none should go gentle into death (title, l. 1), but then contradictorily, says in a declarative mode that "you should rage b/c you were mediocre,” etc. How deflating the "good men,” anyone’s version of good will do, is declarative in that they simply do not go. . ., yet they go through and after a strong "might have” that did not bring change to the world (ll. 6-8). And so it goes, limping along. Think of Faulkner's "man's puny voice" from his Nobel acceptance speech.

(Interlude: What “Princess,” with her science degree, noted [see Comments on 5.05.06b, "About the Poem, Pt. 1," I think] is actually another core piece of the poem, part of its foundation--i.e., that Thomas is not talking about death, he’s talking about life. She beats me to the punch, and with a science degree no less! I think I know why, or how; because the real-life experience someone at life’s end, actually watching that person go, clearly trumps the experience (merely) on the page. Real insight. More on this that "he’s actually writing about life” in a later installment. For now it’s enough to say that’s also why the blog's subtitle ends with “Life and Death”--I’ve been realizing progressively how death is circumscribed, supplemented (yes, Derrida), given its very meaning or any meaning at all through life--life up to that moment, the lives that go on, the experiences and minds of the people who can go check the Wall of Death and see whether anybody got a chance to spit on it.)

Every example given in the poem is: a perhaps, a subjunctive, a might’ve been -- there are no clear-cut great deeds, no successes, no accomplishments, no unquestionable legacies. NB: from the _OED_, "b. Designating a mood (L. _modus subjunctivus_, . . .) the forms of which are employed to denote an action or a state as conceived (and not as a fact) and therefore used to express a wish, command, exhortation, or a contingent, hypothetical, or prospective event.” If you’re struck down by stroke at 65, you may have had some time, been given "your" time, but how comforting is that when most likely you didn’t see it coming and you are left with the living. How is it to be left alive with no clarity, no vision? (The best of friends is tied to this "hypothetical," and I grieve for him, no more to say.) A very pertinent corollary: the contrastive harshness of our lives, between the might-have-been's and what-we-actually-do’s, or get-a-chance-to-do's, is better explained nowhere I think than in the life and work of John Ashbery: _Three Poems_ if nowhere else. A work I could spend a life rereading and being quietly and consistently amazed by. He keeps trying to not go gentle, slow and steady. Still, you read him and know he realizes the underlying falling short of it all. And he gives everything to you in a modal or tonal form, skillfully improvised from the chart we all have but few can read, filled always with the just the right number of blue notes. Every note around the melody played, but the thing itself left unspoken, a negative presence that haunts through its outline.

[Franky Scale: 8; and we've got hits from four continents today.]

To be continued, w/ Icarus in my lap. . .…


Slarry said...

Mr. Jones, you continue to amaze and slay me. What a beaufiful mind, indeed. A teacher of truth and meaning, that for most, would just slide right by, unnoticed. Thank you for your gift of expression and explaination. I will forever and alway adore you and be in awe.
You are life, to me and so many others. I watched and heard our Mom today speak so intuitively, so sincerely of you and your many gifts. She was extolling your virtures, your life force-- her great and exspansive love for you. There were no might haves, or should haves just sheer appreciation, for all that you are. It was both tender and sweet, and Steph, Matt and I were just glad to be part of the ride.
I miss Mr. franky-- another favoriite of mine.
I will continue to learn from you, with each new sentence you utter, each new point you make. I didn't think you could "trump" your own writing, but you have. Wow. What clarity-- what eloquence.

As always, I'm forever grateful to be your sister.

Big love from Zion. Sheri

Slarry said...

Dear Princess: I loved your earlier blog-- that Thomas was speaking of LIFE, not death in his poem that my brother is so intent on. I appreciate your strength and passion, wisdom and support, as we are all becoming more unifed in raging and fighting against the thought of any kind of death for Mr. Jones. He is so strong-- actually the strongest person I know. I appreciate your wisdom and the loving care you are providing and offering so freely to him. He is so easy to love. I hope to someday meet you-- you sound so fascinating, so real, no wonder he is drawn and attracted to you.
From one who loves him also, I thank you so very much.
Love and appreciation== sheri