Bruce Beasley is a native of
Toward a Poetics of Monstrosity
Pound writes somewhere that poems are all pith and gist: all core, that means to me, all crux, all inwardness. As Rilke asks in another context, Where for this inside is there an outside? The poem for me is a monstrous body, its surface all exposed inside, brain and lung and heart chamber and viscera, appalling and fascinating to stare into.
My uncle, a physician, dislikes ambiguity, the untestable hypothesis. He used to call me up after reading my poems and bellow that I was just an intellectual snob. You need to write a glossary for each of your poems, hed insist, to EXPLAIN YOUR SYMBOLISM so people will know what the hell youre talking about, man!
When the monster comes along, Rosamond Purcell writes, the ground begins to slip.
Italians have an expression I love: rimanere in forse, to remain in perhaps, not to know, for a while. Like Keats negative capability, its a soothing respite from the irritable reaching of the intellect toward knowledge and fact. A dispossession of the experience. To stay in perhaps, to linger with the eroticized body of the temporarily or permanently unknown.
Look, Daddy, theres paradise, my four-year-old son Jin said to me one day. We were cleaning our way through an old junk drawer. When I finally distinguished where in the mounds of old coins and photographs and crumpled playing cards he meant me to find paradise, I saw two garish red casino cubes; pair o dice.
The conjoined bodies, the multiple personalities of each word. Homonyms coinhabiting the same flesh of letters. Each words legions of selves struggling for primacy. Passion is suffering, is emotion, is rage, is zeal, is lust, is the Crucifixion. With language as its body, how can poem not grow excrescences, overlapping limbs? Obliquity, extremity: the too-much, the not-enough, the ill-understood, the anomalous mix. Ellipsis, a leaving-out, means etymologically a leaving in.
The monstrance is the jeweled container that holds aloft the consecrated Host.
Monstrous: extraordinary in a way to incite wonder; deviating greatly from the natural: malformed; having the appearance of a monster; shockingly wrong.
The monster is created to give an outward form to a banished inner extremity: a dread, a rage, a passion that cant be made to stay inside, cant be acknowledged as our own. The monster (from monore, to warn; monstrare, to show) is what warns us, what shows or demonstrates us: a prodigy, an omen, urgently interpretable and nevertheless deeply alienating and strange.
If a poem is a place of extremityemotional, linguistic, spiritualno gloss is going to assimilate its monstrous body-- phoneme, syllable, image, chant, word.
Adam and Eve, wounded by the violent act of being-made, being torn asunder from one body into two. The twenty-year restoration of Leonardos Last Supper, as if not only the painting but the sacrament it depictsmatter turned to spirit, bread to sacrificed body of Christcould revert to some original state of wholeness. The restoration (spiritual, psychic, emotive, cellular) of my nephew as he undergoes another kind of violent sacramental transformation through chemotherapy and radiation to drive the leukemic cells from his blood. I mean to estrange the ordinary story and its language. Let its monstrous body emerge: portent, omen, monstrance-gleam. Stuck for a while at least in perhaps. And thats what the hell Im talking about.
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