Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Man and the Gecko

I'm sitting in the computer lab in the Mizzou library, waiting until my brain kicks into student-paper-grading mode, which it always does. I always get something fun, and informative, and cool out of grading student papers once I start in, but there's that momentary pause beforehand, that natural urge to put them off, that can last for weeks. Today is a good time for that pause to thaw away, though, with the sun out and the snow melting under its gold breath and turning the sidewalks to melt-mirrors where the blue sky runs in a luminous analogue. Downtown Columbia is studded with the after-church crowd, looking stark and clean and happy in deep blue suits, and each computer holds a student rapt with its little kind of holiness, and there's a kind of prayer in the kneel before the screen and the rattle of the keys.

I was reading Yeats' poem "The Man and the Echo" a minute ago, and the three words at the end of each stanza spoken by the man are repeated as the voice of the echo, so he's lamenting "And all work done/dismisses all/And sinks at last into the night," (sorry, I'm butchering it in short term memory), and the echo repeats "into the night," and that echo itself makes echoic meanings. First, it redoubles the stony sense of mortality about the poem, but then, the more I think about it, the more it seems to parody the man's reflexivity, showing the lament as an incantation for its own sake, and I think Yeats is making fun of how a poet echoes woe. But I could just be projecting, because I like the brotha.

Echo: like the brotha.

There's such an effortless sense of ecstasy in his music, and it feels inherently joyful, like the harmony seen in hills that flatten together in mist, but still are distinct, just more like arcs of a rainbow, and I think partly it comes from the iambic tetrameter, and how he just lets the language do its thing, and the act of producing the poem is the act, like Flannery O'Connor said, of getting out of the way of the writing. My scholarly conclusion, then, is that Yeats travelled in a time machine to where Flannery O'Connor was saying that, then vanished back into the emeraldine shadows of his Celtic twilight and wrote "The Man and the Echo."

Hope you're having a wonderful Sunday, whoever you are. I've been trying to think of a larger phrase in which to fit the phrase "the magic of plastic," and, if you can send me one, I'll send you some love.


Blogger Marc McKee said...

The magic of plastic. Hmmm. There should be a poetry assignment in there like the challenge that Steve Martin takes up in Roxanne--when he has to make 20 fresh jokes about his mutant nose. I'll try a couple Hip Hop / Shakespeare: "This tragic, this drastic, this magic of plastic." Cynic: "The entropic magic of plastic seals us from us--I can only kiss my own HazMat suit." Stentorian Milosz-liker: "Now effaces what has made now / with the deliberate magic of plastic fruit." McKeesian: "One reaches in the dark, / one scores the facade with plastic magic / and a recalled chorus like a charm." Parmenterian: "You are you and your eyes write / sharp shadows into the sky. // You are not-you, shade made material / in the plastic magic of mask and device. // Once, the wounds looked like the roses that fell to the ground. / Now, every rose looks like a wound." Right.

10:17 AM  

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