Sunday, September 4, 2011
A Charles Olson Reader
Ed. Ralph Maud
I think I bought this online. It's published in the UK by Carcanet and is geared toward introducing Olson to a European audience. It's a great introduction, one I suspect would be very useful in a classroom on either side of the pond.
I am feeling a little backed up today. The only thing I can think to write about is the word 'pond,' used a couple of sentences back to denote the vast, non-pond expanse known as the Atlantic ocean. I am casting back through my memories in search of an image of an actual pond and I am drawing a blank.
I can recall being near oceans and lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, waterfalls, reflecting pools, etc., and I can draw a specific image to mind for each on of these terms. Each contains one or several instances or composites representing that term and these instances all have that physical sense that pertains to memories derived from actual experience.
But 'pond' gives me nothing. Is it possible that I have gone through my entire life without ever experiencing a pond? Probably not. I am sure I have stood before many a pond. Perhaps I never said to myself, This is a pond. Thus, I never connected the word with any kind of mental image.
If I have any sensation of a pond, I feel as though it derives less from lived experience and more from experience gained from books and television and films. When I think of a pond, I think of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh, an idyllic country scene. It's summer. The grass is tall, the insects and butterflies dance and play over the still water. Nothing happens. If I place myself in the picture, I am seated beneath a shade tree, swatting away flies, staring at a water bug that glides jerkily across the surface. Perhaps I have a stalk of grass in my mouth. I think I hear crickets. Maybe a bullfrog or two. Ribbet. Ribbet.
But I was never physically present at this pond. I made it up. I am not even sure there's a pond in Winnie the Pooh. How is it that this simple noun can leave such a hole in my memory? When I finished writing the phrase 'across the pond,' the first image that came to mind was of Pond's Cold Cream. I can't honestly say I have experienced that either, at least not outside the realm of a television commercial.
I have crossed the Atlantic a couple of times, so I guess that counts for something.