Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Meditation and Poetics - 75 - (Walt Whitman Lists - 3)


AG [continuing to read from "Song of Myself" and quoting Whitman]: “The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron”. What is “The Wolverine”? Does anybody know?
Student: It’s a little..
AG: “The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron” – the Huron River, the Huron..
Student: .. River
AG:  ..River.
Student (2): Huron Lake
AG: Lake?  Lake.
Student: (It’s still, in parts of Michigan, a river.)
Peter Orlovsky [also sitting-in in the class]:  (And the) wolverine is a little animal.
AG: I imagine, but a wolverine doesn’t..
Student: (No, it isn’t the animal)
AG: It probably needs a footnote. Does anybody (have) an edition (of Leaves of Grass) with footnotes
Student It’s the name of someone who..
AG: Pardon me?
Student: It’s a guy who lives in Michigan  - Michigan Wolverines and Michigan Badgers
AG: Ah, it’s a guy who live in Michigan. There’s a real language detail. In this case, the precision and accuracy is in the quiddity of the individuality of the language, there, where he actually knew enough about the particular detail that they’re called..  What state is that, though? that area?
Student: Michigan
AG: Michigan
Student: It’s like the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines
AG: Right. It’s capitalized here.

“The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemm’d cloth is offering moccasins and bead-bags for sale.”  - Pardon me?
Student: Did you skip a couple of lines?
AG: No, What have you got? Have you got something there
Student: Yeah
AG: Is that the first edition?
Student: Yeah
AG: Oh, let’s see what he left out. Loud.
Student: “The Reformer ascends from platform, he spouts with his mouth and nose”
AG: That’s great
Student: “The company returns from its excursion. The darkie brings up the rear and bears the well-riddled target.”
AG: “Well-riddled target”?
Student: “Well-riddled target”
AG: That’s shooting, their shooting spree, or shooting match. Or arrow, bow and arrow, whatever. Go on.
Student: “Darkie..”
AG: Go on. Any more?
Student; No, (that’s it)
AG: What’s that first line, though?
Student: : “The Reformer ascends from platform, he spouts with his mouth and nose”
AG: That’s pretty good.

Peter Orlovsky: He what?

AG: “The Reformer... he spouts with his mouth and nose.” - “The Reformer ascends from platform, he spouts with his mouth and nose” – (I guess he thought it was too vulgar or something, or too mean probably) – This next one is really good.

“The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut eyes bent sideways” – So it’s like a little pencil sketch. (Jack) Kerouac always loved that one - “The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut eyes bent sideways.” I think Kerouac wrote whole novels out of that line, actually. That is to say, the particular kind of taking some archetypal social detail, sort of half-campy, half-witty. Whitman, I’m sure, knew such connoisseurs and dug them as intellectual companions. But he’s making a sort of funny, archetypal humorous cartoon or fast sketch out of it (which also captures the particular vanity or pride or psychological self that would be discernible in such posture and eye attitude.

“As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown for the shore-going passengers,/The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister winds it off in a ball, and stops now and then for the knots” – (He might have said, “One woman holds out the skein while another woman holds out the skein, but he had a whole family picture there. “The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister..” – so he laid it on thick.

Student: It’s still not that specific because it’s only “young”, (there’s no age for the sister), you just have to imagine the thing…
AG: It would be a little awkward to say “seventeen-year-old sister”, come on..
Student: I always wondered about that, though
AG: Okay..we’re agreed, there is a slight generalization there – “the young sister” – He could have had… What does “young” mean? – Okay.
Student (2): (How, though, to be more specific..)
AG: The… (Well,) what did young girls wear in those days? (that might have indicated the youth). The youthful (sister)..
Student:  Fair-cheeked?
AG: ..The big-bellied older sister? – Pardon me?
Student: Fair-cheeked?
AG: Fair?...nah  - ”fair-cheeked”, that’s a stereotype. No, something about the dress, or the posture, or, something that would indicate “young” (but there’s a limit to how much detail you can get). Well, there is no limit to how much accuracy (accuracy is unlimited, I think). This isn’t totally accurate, but since you’ve got a young sister and an old sister and a skein and they stop now and then for winding it off the ball, and they stop now and then for knots, you actually have some phanopoetic 3-D picture, if you want, in your mind. (phanopoeia – the casting of an image on the mind’s eye) ["the throwing of an image on the mind's retina", "throwing a visual image on the mind" - the term is, of course, from (Ezra) Pound's ABC of Reading

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