Juvenilia

Today’s raisins are poetic defenses of poetry. The first two are relics from early graduate school days I found this morning preparing to discuss poetry and philosophy; the third is an excerpt from Octavio Paz’ El Mismo Tiempo (“Identical Time”), as translated by Eliot Weinberger.

 

I. “What are poets for?”

“What are poets for
in a destitute time?”
he asked,
chomping off
the butt end
of a Macanudo.
“Not for paying the rent,
that’s for damn sure.
I had a poet
up in 10A
for a while:
dressed in black,
fought with his girlfriend
in the middle of the night.
That guy moved out
after three months.
He still owes me fifty bucks
for the toilet.”
He spat
in a high, sanguine arc
brown saliva shimmering
like rhododendrons
against the pavement.
“No, sir.
I don’t think
I’ll ever rent
to one of those fucking poets
again.”

 

II. Zen Master

“A poem”
he said,
“is noise
where there ought to be quiet.
The poet hears
the holy silence of being
but can’t contain his imagination.
So he writes
where listening alone
is needful.”
We sat together
he and I
in the moonlit silence
contemplating the temptation
to speak its Name.
“These reflections too,”
he said
“are manifestations
of the same phenomenon.”

 

III. from Identical Time

Today I am alive and without nostalgia
the night flows
                            the city flows
I write on this page that flows
I shuttle with these shuttling words
The world did not begin with me
it will not end with me
                                          I am
one pulsebeat in the throbbing river
Twenty years ago Vasconcelos told me
“Devote yourself to philosophy
It won’t give you life
                                      but it is a defense against death”
And Ortega y Gasset
                                      in a bar on the Rodano
“Learn German
and apply yourself to thinking
                                                        Forget the rest.”

I do not write to kill time
nor to revive it
I write that I may live and be revived
This afternoon from a bridge I saw
the sun enter the waters of the river
All was in flames
the statues the house the porticoes burned
In the gardens feminine clusters of grapes
ingots of liquid light
the coolness of solar vessels
The poplars a foliage of sparks
the water horizontal unmoving
beneath the flaming earths and skies
Each drop of water
                                    a fixed eye
the weight of enormous beauty
on each open eye
Reality suspended
                                    on the stalk of time
beauty weighs nothing
                                          Peaceful reflection
time and beauty are the same
                                                        light and water

Gaze that sustains the loveliness
time enchanted in a gaze
world weightless
                                 as man is weighted
Is not beauty enough?

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2 comments on “Juvenilia

  1. renegadephilosophyblog says:

    Hah! Lovely stuff dude. How common is it for philosophers to express their insight through poetry?

    • seancstidd says:

      Thanks! Not very…Nietzsche and Heidegger come to mind…in terms of people working in the field in the USA now I have come across volumes by John Koethe and Jody Azzouni.

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