Do You See?
Two words were thrown at me recently — “imagination” and “absence”. In random situations. Rather, I caught them, the way one catches a ball lobbed high up in the air.
In “A Poetry of Absence,” David B. Morris suggests that “imagination in the eighteenth- century normally refers to the mind’s ability to make or receive pictorial images. As mainly pictorial compositions, dreams not only communicate with unusual speed and vividness but also maintain a strong link with emotions” (Morris 238).
Let me plug a block quote here from Morris:
“A poetics of absence appropriate to the eighteenth century would take as its distinctive image not the void or abyss – where the rich material world encounters its opposite state of nothingness – but the ruin. Ruins are the trace of something that has vanished. As eighteenth-century poets employ the image, a ruin is less the sign of a distinct past, like the famous monument commemorating the London fire, than an evocation of something lost beyond recovery while nonetheless still persisting in fragments, remnants, and flashes of recollection. The ruin gives absence, so to speak, a material dwelling: a rock-solid site that, paradoxically, embodies a sense that the world is also porous, uncertain, and insubstantial. Its power in eighteenth century poetry derives from this implicit doubleness combining solidity with evanescence, like Rome as Piranesi depicted it in his Vedute di Roma (begun in the late 1740s), with shrubs sprouting from tumbledown classical arches, fallen statues beside overgrown temples, wooden shacks propped against the cenotaphs.” (The Cambridge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Poetry; 11 A poetry of absence; Morris)
In my mind I thought of a poem not from the time I state above, but one written more recently … somewhere close to this theme:
“Where does such tenderness come from?” BY MARINA TSVETAEVA
(NEW VERSIONS FROM THE RUSSIAN BY ILYA KAMINSKY AND JEAN VALENTINE)
I am NOT thinking of ruins. But of images. Imagination. Poetics of absence.
Poetics of absence enables a conjurer ‘s delight. Imagination is a tool as much as it is a necessity. My appeal to poetry cohorts would be to locate that space in your writing — in terms of persona, body, objects, nature, language.
Went for a lovely dinner at a friend’s place. Out in the Scottish country. The food, the wine, the laughter — everything was just perfect. We looked out of the window from the dinner table to see the sun go down. The sky’s light as thin and shimmering as a Japanese lantern at day break. It was cheerful. It was pensive. The dusk was heady. The dusk was delirious. It pined after my heart. Only if I had one left.
“The ruin gives absence, so to speak, a material dwelling.” I’m not surprised. My new poetry already has succumbed to this oddity.