Saturday, September 18, 2010

Aimless Reading: The K's, Part 1.3 (Franz Kafka)


Diaries 1910-1923
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Kafka, Franz
Diaries 1910-1923


Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

I had used some text from one of Kafka's diary entries to create a section of a poem in Human Scale and I wanted to go back and reread the diaries again for further inspiration.

The quote was:

"Life's splendour forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come."

The poem came out like this:

It might be true
The thing I hunger for

Is here in all its fullness.
Only give me the name

That calls it forth
To frighten and amaze

By the spectacle
Of its own privation.

I remember reading this poem to Gerrit Lansing at his home in Gloucester when we visited him there that year. He corrected my pronunciation of the word 'privation.' I think I pronounced it like 'deprivation' instead of like 'libation.' I felt kind of silly -- I'd never heard the word spoken aloud before, I'd only read it and guessed at the pronunciation. Fortunately it didn't screw up the rhythm of the poem.

Some other poet I know used this exact same quote as an epigraph in a recent book. I swear it was Anselm Berrigan, but I can't find the book on my shelf at the moment. It might be in a chapbook or something.

I think I had hoped to find further text to work with in Kafka's diaries, but did not. When I borrow text I don't tend to be able very often to return to the same source for inspiration. It usually finds me, hits me, transforms itself, departs. And that is that.

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