Is my poem publishable

Poetry and anthropology

To speak of poetry and art in general in connection with anthropology is at least not trivial. Poetry as an “experience about man”? What is meant by this: poetry as the origin of knowledge about man? Know about the concrete difference, about the poetic person, the homo poeta? Knowledge of this homo poeta as a specific and universal state that is in some way specific to every human being (as it is called in the well-known words of Holderlin: “Man lives poetically”)? Or are we talking about poetry as a special kind of anthropological activity, an act of “knowing oneself”? Of course, whenever we use them in connection with poetry, we must examine each of these great words more closely. First of all, does art teach us to recognize, even a different relationship to oneself? If you believe Pushkin - that is exactly what it is about: “It teaches us as the first science: Eighth yourself." And - secondly: If a person experiences something through and in art, is it just himself? From the statements of numerous artists we can in any case conclude the following: one experiences everything possible through art - only not oneself. One should just forget oneself. How is this supposed to be done? The most common method is to flee human society, away from humans, from the "human-all-too-human" to oneself; or into the humanless silence of inner emigration, in order to take an extra-human point of view in human reality. For example that of the tragic choir or that of “a viewer of the calm and a witness to the indispensable” (as it is called in a comment by Alexander Blok on The Girl from Spoletto). The poet and, if not the person, the “people” usually move on all too different sides of the truth: “Oh People, poor sex ... / How often does a person pass you by / whom the blind and boisterous century insults / and whose lofty countenance in the future generation / who poet leads to enthusiasm and emotion. "

The People, as Pushkin describes them, are impetuous and insane, but the poet is up non-human Way attentive. Perhaps poetry has just this overt and often challenging trait of it Human away, which means that it rarely becomes an object of anthropological interest. The connection between mythology and anthropology is now a traditional connection - the turn towards archaic society, towards other People, to the living experience of the pensée sauvage represents the basis of contemporary scientific anthropology, whereby it is not about the concrete content of archaic belief and thought, but about the constitution of this consciousness, which is called “pre-logical” or “metaphorical” ( Olga Frejdenberg): a consciousness that experiences everything it knows on the way of participation, and not subjectively-objective distancing.

Shouldn't one treat poetry as a relic of this wild thinking? How about a kind of Indian reservation in the civilization of the skyscrapers, an island of the understandable, which for some reason has been preserved in a safe “aesthetic” zone in a marginal zone of the cultured man, who is composed completely differently? The most important quality of this area is definitely the separation from the practical. In contrast to the original myths and metaphors, these late myths are personal myths, for domestic use, so to speak; in their own way they are thoroughly complete and they fit into a systematic whole which is then usually referred to as the “world of the poet”. Such individual mythologies are examined in monographs with titles such as “The poetic world of so-and-so”. In these investigations we learn, for example, what happens to night and day, what happens to chaos, and so on, in a particular poetic system. A really naive, yet highly significant question is rarely asked: What is the relationship between each of these “worlds” and the one we all have in common, which of these two worlds is actually real for the author? And should both be real - how are they? Is one the “outer”, the other the “inner” world? The “mythological” man had no two worlds at his disposal! The poet, on the other hand - apart from exceptions such as Velimir Chlebnikov - usually distinguishes “poetic truth” from “prosaic” or “physical”.

"The earth rests - the halls of heaven / You hold in your hand, Creator, / That they do not fall on us / And not crush sea and land."
"Bad physics, but what bold poetry!" notes Pushkin in his self-comment on these lines. Where's the poetry here? How do we judge this without any “aesthetic” or ironic alienation? Is it the old image of a solid sky supported by two pillars? About its immaterial force?

It is probably not particularly fruitful to understand poetry as a relic of archaic consciousness or as a key to it: we discover nothing but a series of examples for a given topic. It is similar with the psychoanalytic reading, which discovers sublimated images of unconscious instinctual impulses in poetry. The most important thing for me is the observation that this approach does not correspond to the whole situation, the existence of a “poetic myth” is certainly not the sine qua non of poetry. I would suggest comparing the structural necessity of an “individual myth” with that of figures and tropes. Roman Jakobson has shown quite emphatically that poetry can manage without figures and tropes, but has no place outside of grammar. And just as little as we find the essence of poetry as a form of language in the figures and tropes, just as little will we discover its anthropological message in the residuals of mythology or in archetypes. Much more interesting seems to me to be a “poetic anthropology” based on completely different foundations - the main features of which were outlined by Lev Vygotsky. The origin here is the experience of to shape as a basic human activity. How and by what means is a form experienced? Obviously not through the intellect in the narrow sense, obviously also not through the emotions, through feelings as they are normally understood. We perceive an overly active participation of both mind and emotions as a defect of the form, as something that does not allow the form to become complete, to be realized - as something too "human", "man-made" . This fundamental, simple need for form, which can only be analyzed in the opposite direction, the ability to form, the pleasure in form and the agony of formlessness raise the most general questions about the constitution of man, the question of an “organ” which the Perceives form just as directly as we perceive sound, light and warmth. The perception of form happens just as suddenly and comprehensively as all elementary sensory perceptions, only later does a reasonable assessment of things that can be analyzed such as “composition” or “symmetry” begin.

What can a phenomenon like poetry (of which we assume that above all the phenomenon of form is recognizable) say about people if, if it succeeds, it is said: “Divine!” Or: "A person would not have brought something like this together!" I believe that precisely this paradox is the access to the actual anthropological problematic of poetry, its creation and its perception.

This view of Non-human as the actual essence of the poetic work, it comes in various varieties. A classic motif is, for example, the medial, mediating character of the work: the work was not made by a person, but dictated by the muse (by language); it appears in a dream; or the work creates itself and so on. Another description is: these verses (these sounds, this sculpture) were not created by this specific person who is busy with any trivialities. And the author immediately agrees: no, it wasn't this person! The resulting contrast between the creative and the everyday person in a person can, however, be regarded as scandalous ... Designations for these other Person in the author are: “current person” (“the current person who wrote these poems” - Stéphane Mallarmé), “musical subject” (Alexej Lossev). And yet another variant of the same subject, which can be described as the “Homeric problem”: I am speaking of the old, long-familiar topos of doubt about the reality of certain authors. “It is quite decidedly that the age is very different Illias wrote - who was also blind, ”Anna Akhmatova once joked about it. Borges called this fact “deification to the point of annihilation” - and in the end it doesn't matter who actually wrote Shakespeare's plays. The only important thing is that he did not exist, this specific person.

All these cases of enthusiasm in the face of Non-human in art show us the way to our current anthropology. First of all, it should be noted which implicit and practical image of man we actually have. From the point of view of everyday life, man is a being who is incapable of producing something really meaningful, something unquestionable and impossible. The ability to do the impossible is not even considered an exception; and more importantly - man cannot produce anything that is really free from himself, but what is not free from him is also not interesting, not perfect, is obviously not a form.

What does the intimate connection with the form (or with the music, as it is called in the language of Romanticism) say about? the people from, with a self-creating form, the power of which he is quite able to experience in a certain other state, when he is different from what he is normally, unknown to himself? What does this form say to people - not only to the author but also to the reader?

I would like to tell a story about this that I heard from someone who experienced it firsthand. He is a dissident from the 1970s who was interrogated every day for months after his arrest. He was required to sign any statement, as well as a public declaration of repentance, as was customary in the Soviet Union at the time. “At one point - he said - I didn't care about anything. I woke up one morning feeling that that day I would sign whatever was asked of me. Not out of fear, but because nothing matters. Nothing means anything anymore. And at that moment I remembered a poem by Mandelstam, from beginning to end. Theta and Iota of the Greek flute. At that time I probably experienced the same thing as a believer at the sacrament. I thought - that's exactly it. Here is a whole world, everything, and I am in communion with it. After this experience I was absolutely convinced that I would not sign anything more now. It just wasn't possible anymore. And the chekists understood that too - from that day on they didn't want anything from me, they just sent me to where I was being shipped back then. "

This story would not be so amazing if it were a poem with clearly doctrinal or moral content. Instead, it is about a so-called difficult and dark poem, the meaning of which is immanent in the sound body, but which cannot be extracted without injury. A process no less painful than the torture of Marsias, which Dante compares to pulling a knife out of its sheath. Della vagina della membra sua.

I take the liberty of quoting this poem in full in order to gain a little respite from my informal reflections on form in its actual and pure presence: in its almost excessive tension. I say pause for breath because in reality anything but tension is tiring.

Theta and Iota of the Greek flute -
Shallow speech was not enough for her:
How she matured unformed, struggled
Blindly forward - and her step was far.

Quite impossible to ever let her
Forcing with your teeth - not easy
Never to get into the word with tongues,
She doesn't break that pair of lips softly.

The flautist doesn't want to know the calm
And it seems to him that only he still knows:
Lilac-colored clay in the hands -
How he once created his sea, his circle.

That whispering, clear-sounding, stern,
the memory comes to the lips -
How scanty he is with her, reviles the gift,
Hear the sounds cut even more strictly.

To follow him: a way not to find
I crushed the clay with no residue -
When the sea filled my mouth
Was my measure only burl and pestilence to me.

My own lips: they weigh
A crime grows from the bud -
I am unfree, I cannot grasp sounds:
Will be quieter and quieter now.
(April 7, 1937)

Translation: Ralph Dutli,

It is not difficult to inscribe this poem in the “world of Mandelstam” mentioned earlier - in short, other than symphonic, his later works cannot be read. Sea music versus Aphrodite's word. The related references: Lilac, (“And the foam of the pale lilac”); Sea, Greece, flute; Greece, clay, potters; another dialect - musical instrument; Lips, mouth, teeth, language - human (in fact the mouth in Mandelstam symbolizes the human being, like the eye on the archaic tombstones of the Balkans). If you stop at a list of such Mandelstam constants, which can be inserted into one as well as another context, we are not actually reading this poem, but are extracting it from reality. It is generally known that Mandelstam had an aversion to theories of evolution: the leap, the catastrophe, break after break - he considered this image of movement, both physical, historical and psychological, to be the more realistic course of things. And so is the syntax of his message. Perhaps in his case there is an even greater gap between the immortal language pre-existing in time and pronunciation ("it may be that the lips were already whispering"); H. between the holy names that dwell in the circle of shadows of Elysium and their unfolding in time and on human lips, in mortal speech. In other words - between that semantic sum that we call the “world of Mandelstam” and the appearance of every new thing. Each time it arises originally - not from the thesaurus of what is available, but against it, from nothing, from the absolute improbability of its own appearance. Access to language, to names, to access to the supply of symbols is extremely difficult: it is like descending into the underworld (see Orpheus, see Dante), which normally only takes one once. The inspiration, “the appearance of the fabric” in the poem is catastrophic, the tension in the arc is a lightning strike. This poem is about this moment. And that's why in my comment I will interpret the images as if they were conveying some other (paradigmatic) meaning than the one that arises ad hoc and then disappears again immediately.

So - this is the epitome, the model image of setting the scene in the phonetic and articulatory body of enthusiasm, the birth of form. (Staging is a term from Mandelstam's conversation about Dante, in which it says: “In such an understanding, poetry is not a part of nature ... and even less is it its reflection, which would be a mockery of the law of identity.On the other hand, she takes on a new, extra-spatial field of action with overwhelming independence, whereby she does not so much retell nature as rather stages with the help of instrumental means, which are called images in everyday language. ”) Emphasized articulation of the lip sounds m, u) and the sound t, which reproduces the characteristic movement of the tongue when playing on the flute (in the following way: in the metaphor beating the lips, the technique of sound production on a flute is staged in two ways. Visually - beating the lips Articulatory - when you pronounce the word topot, hit, stomp, pronounce, we repeat the work of the flute player, as it were: “On his track we don't repeat him.”) By speaking this poem and experiencing its articulation, we establish that we are doing a strange thing: we imitate a person who plays a flute. But what kind of music do we create? “Word, come back to music,” Mandelstam once said. Here he takes the next step down: music, return to the mechanics of sound generation - without its sonic consequences.

Which flute is this actually about - a Greek flute, and who is this flute player, a demiurge of the moment? Is it the Greek language itself? (Theta, Jotta, whose speech was not enough, whose acoustic imprint looks like deafness to the Russian ear)? Or is it all about Hellas, the warlike and peasant, its anti-statuary, non-image and anti-rationalist image, which radically opposes all simple-minded piety? A Hellas, sacred beginning that runs through the warlike nightmare of history? The first line is the button or knot that must not be untied. It has to be taken as it is: this dissolving knot, the original tightness that initiates the difficulty before the whole walk. Anyone who unbuttoned this knot for being is no longer following the further course of speech without resistance, a speech that is realized solely in unfolding knots, in buttons of meaning. In comparison with these “Dantesque”, non-linear, semantic movements, the simple, poetic swimming in the flow of phonetics - speech, sea, epidemic / measles, measure - is extremely simple, as if sewn with a white thread, all too clear. not even to be taken seriously. It's just a murmur that means nothing without the bow tension.
As usual with Mandelstam, this statement about enthusiasm is basically negative: the speech draws itself towards the word, strikes, circles it (“as if the murmur wasn't enough for him”), but the word itself does not appear. By denying his own speech a final literal reality, Mandelstam repeats the artistic apophantism of Dante in his own way. His “Comedy” also consists only of fragments, it is an imprecise register of the real book that he sees in the last song of “Paradiso”: its “hoarse”, “brief”, “weak” language is related to the creative word (im real sense) like a distant consequence to its cause. The main difference is that the movement of the Dante language is centripedal - repeating the Mandelstamsche, below.

Speech does not strive towards the word (Dante's movement), but towards the word. The knowledge appears as a return, as a repetition, as a memory. The difficulty of this memory is conveyed as the impossibility of choosing between two: it is impossible to do this and not to do this (cf. “To want tenderness from them is a crime / to part with them - is not our strength.” ): “It is impossible to leave her” - it is impossible to stay with her.

Double culmination of this poem: the third and fifth stanzas play the liberating frenzy, ecstasy - “the point of madness” (“It seems to him that he is alone” and “When I filled myself with the sea”). And it also interrupts the enthusiasm, the ecstasy - it works “in a human way”, not like the “point of madness”, but like the “conscience”. The word that comes closest to the other, unnameable word appears twice here - the noun of this poem - sea.

But in order to understand the sea in that sense, one has to think about it differently than dictated by the custom of the language or everyday experience. This is a sea of ​​clay, of earth! (Made of lilac-colored clay - again an ambiguity: a color or a blossom - if a blossom, then its color is more like white.) This sea was modeled at some point! But it is modeled from clay and articulation (a manual work, bad imitation: “I crush the clay without residue”).

The culmination point of the poem is even negative. It is less important what we should think about this sea, what it does is more important: the destruction of “myself”, “my measure”. The emergence of the sea dissolves being. In the non-catastrophic times, not in the “knot of life” - people are much more inclined to reconciliation with their own measure: the measure of “not greatness”. In extraordinary situations, however, all he has left is to be great: to be alone.
Along with a few other moments, this can be seen as the anthropological theme of poetry: the realization of man beyond his “measure”. This measure could be said to be his mortality; one could also say that it is humanity in the sense in which we spoke of it at the beginning (merely human, so to speak). But however you interpret it, the measure becomes an “epidemic” when the form flares up. The form is not a thing - it is a force. The form (contrary to normal ideas) not only does not coincide with delimitations, with proportions, with measure: it stands in opposition to measure, no different from life and death. For Mandelstam (as well as for Blok, regardless of the differences between the two) it would be insulting to see in poetry the creation of exquisite or accomplished things; For him poetry is a picture of life, an eschatological picture. The thing of art is insignificant in its own way. This “sea” or this “breakthrough to infinity” has something of the kind of cleansing flame that the poet of the “Comedy” encounters in “Purgatorio”.

Someone who is better versed in philosophy and theology than me could probably also elaborate on what poetry as an anthropological experience in those disciplines would be compared to. Poetry as the experience of the impossible man, the homo impossibilis, who does not find “something else, uncontrollable by himself”, a “momentary personality”, “a musical subject”, but rather the pure consent to disappearance (“I am ready to die ”). To disappear at the threshold, at the origin, in the announcement of something completely different, which he experiences as beyond measure his own. Would that be compatible with what is called natural meditation, natural mysticism?

It is also very important that this experience (in contrast to the direct, inexpressible experience of “natural mysticism” as it is usually described) is both communicable and publishable. Poetry neither describes nor recounts them, it makes them appear immediately, “stages” them: this event of the form itself is carried out in the objectivity of the artistic object. It occurs both in the author and in the reader - although it is not yet clear where it occurs more fully. (Because Mandelstam's poem is not said “in the name of the flautist”: it reflects the transformation of the listener who appears in the original “we”. It is much more about the enthusiasm of reading and not of the enthusiasm of making.) For the reader, the sea becomes the measure. He is now also someone who at some point created a world, which is why you can no longer harm him.

Published 13 November 2000
Original in German
Translated by Erich Klein

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