Thursday, December 30, 2010

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 6.2 (Nathaniel Mackey)

Paracritical Hinge
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Mackey, Nathaniel
Paracritical Hinge:
Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews

I think I bought this one online. University press books usually cost too much to pay full price and support my local store.

I bought this for Mackey's essay on Duncan's Vietnam War poems. It's one of the best essays on Duncan out there, IMHO. Not that I've read all that many.

I believe I was reading this around the time I was also reading the Duncan/Levertov correspondence. It was more or less the height of the Iraq war, which basically framed all of my thinking and writing during this period. Both To Be Sung and Human Scale were written with the war always pressing in on the poems, whether as foreground or as background.

Some days I think I like Mackey's essay more than I like the poems he writes about. I am always hot and cold on Duncan.

I remember sitting at a pizza place in New York after reading at the Zinc bar in probably 2005 and telling someone that I thought this was a great essay and then that person asking me why I thought it was 'great.' I really hate that question. It always feels like a challenge rather than an inquiry. I think just told them to go read the essay and find out for themselves.

from Gassire's Lute: Robert Duncan's Vietnam War Poems

The deep entanglement of word and humankind, the difficulty of disentangling "I think I could bear it" from "I cannot think I could bear it," bears witness to a truth to be faithful to which the poet runs a two-way risk. The hubris of an easy gesture of commiseration, the assertion of solidarity through presumptions of suffering only vicariously suffered, vies with the hubris of a callous transcendance of suffering, the narcotizing lure of holding life "in no higher esteem then it deserves." The difficulty, the meaning, is in the mix, the holding aloft of an unresolved dilemma. The meaning, more exactly, is the mix, the intertwinement and the intensification; the entanglement taunts our wish to conclude.

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