Saturday, August 16, 2008

Is Poetry Matter?

There's almost nothing that I don't know about quantum physics, except that it involves all of these things that I normally consider mindboggling made even moreso, to that point just a twist short of mysticism where they don't be, but mean. But that idea that matter might be a substance all its own, in which all other substances can be found, feels like an analogue of the one that poetry is this one, distinct thing, and different subtypes and traits can be found in it.

What's remarkable about the second one to me isn't just that people think it, but that people have been thinking it at least as far back as Gorgias of Leontini, who calls poetry "speech with meter" while, maybe, doing what a quantum physicist does when he says something like, "I found a muon"--implying lots of unsignifiable dimensions and systems of order too chorded to the soul, or its verbal equivalent, to be set down as this one thing. But poetry is, for him, and roughly a zillion who come after him, even though it doesn't keep stable traits, aside from verbality, maybe being verbal art, like Jakobson says, but its linearity and functionality are championed too much for that to be it, either. The main thing that can be said to remain, maybe, is the term, the signifier bobbing there and trailing its shunt roots. Maybe.

Maybe it would be better to say, "Is matter poetry?" But asking whether poetry is matter brings not only lots of late 80's connotations and still-present questions about poetry's future, but the one that I'm going to call quantum to seal my ignorance of the meaning of quantum: the word poetry, uprooted from stable meaning, becomes a sort of material thing all its own, and confers that autonomy on what is then known by its name. If this thing is poetry, it becomes elusively knowable as such. If this thing is not, it may be far more easily defined, or its ineffabilities are too subtle, yet. It reflects a more fundamental approach than the one of negative capability, or postmodern skepticism, in which the text itself is a thing, a substance, maybe virtual, apart from its meaning and the various kinds of fiercenesses its deconstruction may lay bare.

But I don't really know. I do know that "Gorgias" lucked out with a name so close to "gorgeous," and may have won the Sophist-v.-logician battle after all by virtue of homophony.


Post a Comment

<< Home