Poetic Silence

Essay by bellecabalCollege, Undergraduate November 2014

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Isabel Cabal July 1, 2014


On Silence

In the encapsulation of silence, Anne Carson seeks to give form to an expansive presence. Two of which embody the kinds of silence in John Berryman's "Dream Songs" and George Oppen's "Of Being Numerous". One of the silences takes the form of Joan of Arc, the untranslatable, but familiar. "The light comes in the name of the voice." Where "light", "name" and "voice" are common to all, but the subject "light" embodying the object " voice" is the abstraction that silences an absolute interpretation, opening all interpretations for it. The second form is Baconian, as Carson writes, the kind that redefines "fact" as a sensory translation of the state of an object instead of a direct embodiment, "as a photograph", of the situation. In his paintings, there is movement, a sort of anguish enacted not just by expression but by brush stroke and distortion.

Louise Glück in her essays points to Oppen's economic utterances, his activation of the white space, and his mastery of juxtaposition, amending her appraisal. Taking the first poem of the "Of Being Numerous" series, the observable silence from the first four stanzas is like Joan of Arc's. "There are things / We live among 'and to see them / is to know ourselves'." (lines 1-3) The silence lies in the abstraction of the "things we live among" as an agent for the nuancing of the third line, knowing ourselves. The fifth stanza meets us with clarity, an objective situation upon which the abstractions of the first lines permit themselves to be anchored. However tangible, imagining the "we" belonging in those times, already creating that space the "we" must "live among" to activate the abstractions of knowing the self through displacement, the instantaneous insertion of that...