In Words Fail: Theology, Poetry, and the Challenge of Representation, Colby Dickinson argues that language allows us to speak about a thing, but language never leads us to “the ‘thing itself’—the as such-ness of a thing beyond its linguistically codified and intelligible form” (43). We are left with imperfect representations of things that fail us.
Earlier in his book Dickinson asks this profound question: “How indeed, we might add, would one begin to live as if they knew an intimacy forever beyond our ability to represent it (as in cases involving death) and yet find themselves living in a flesh, with its age and its sorrow, that is, at times, simply all too present?” (25).
Would I live my life differently if I knew for certain that a Great Beyond exists beyond words, beyond my life? Could I ever visit, ahead of time, an afterlife awaiting me before I die?
The ultimate illusion, a depth-defying feat: to take a leave of presence, disappear to a traceless place beyond representation, then re-present myself as myself right before my varied eyes.
As a kid I wondered what would be here if the world were not here—if God, in the Beginning, had nothing to live for.
Traumatized in high school, I wrote numb poetry, without irony, already finding ways to reverse my birth through verse.
I was a missing person in my own backyard. An absent student with perfect attendance. No one, except God perhaps, noticed I wasn’t (all) there.
Against the (cash) flow of the free market, poetry is useless.
Poets practice idle worship.
A poem traffics in elicit non-sense, in that it asks for no response, checks for no pulse.
You can put a price on a poem, but it will never sell (out).
Ingeborg Bachmann: “I am writing with my burnt hand about the nature of fire.”
Some questions. Some thoughts.
Where is this fire? Perhaps you’re full of passion, to the point of pain. Should it read instead: “I am writing with my burnt hand about the nature of fire within me”?
“About the nature of fire.” Are you holding your hand to the fire? Is it hovering above the flames? Why don’t you remove it?
It sounds like you’re using your hand to write. Another way of seeing things: Is your hand writing all by itself? Are you writing alongside it? Is your body, minus your burnt hand, writing its own material?
Are you using your write hand?
Words can contain fire—a fiery speech, inflammatory language—but words can’t contain a fire, can’t command a fire to stop burning. If we’re angry when we write, are we playing with ire?
When you wrote or spoke this line, were you aware, Ingeborg Bachmann, that a fire in your bedroom would contribute to your death in 1973 at the age of 47? Did you enjoy your last cigarette?
After the Master of Fine Arts
Calls your pen name to the spoken word stage
Ask everyone how it’s hanging
Even the eunuchs
Say you want to tell Walt Whitman
It gets better
Wait for a pause
Gregorian chant like a Benedictine punk
The worst line of the best poem
You’ve never written
Rhyme with orange
Share your truth
Without gazing too long
At your navel
Halfway through a moment of silence
Shout into the mega microphone
At the flop of your tongue—
Poetry takes ears to perfect
And guts to perform