JUXTAPOSITIONS Milosz “Lastingness”

from William Desmond, INTIMATE UNIVERSAL, p. 76.

“One might say that art gives us neither an image nor an original but an original image or an imagistic original. There is doubleness in its relativity: both an immanent self-reference and a transcendent other reference; something deeply intimate, something intimating superior otherness (‘altus’: ‘above,’ ‘below’). The work stands there in its otherness, but this is corresponding with superiority, and yet there is something intimate that speaks to us in its distance of truth. …Distance is the Between in which something more universal communicates in and through the intimate sensuousness.”

In art, then Aristotle’s concept of poetry as “more universal” meets the phenomenological definition of substance as flesh, of the word made flesh. Milosz is a great poet because he learned how to tell this tale, which had been THE lyric theme since Pindar and Horace: mutability.

It is a high moment of education when the student grasps the concept of mutability because it’s a two-fer: you also get the principle of the universal impermanence. Milosz is a great poet of mutability.

Which is not nihilism. The Metaxy or Between in which we can conceive of human experience (unconscious, conscious, and self-conscious) opens beyond the porosity between mortals and immortals on the ontological other. A big city, no matter where exactly but a long time ago.

We must write or lose it. The poem moves now into the particulars of memory, which are not objective, not exact, but imaginative in Desmond’s sense (see above). The Eros of the porosity—this term is drawn from Plato’s myth (Diotima in The Symposium, but see Josef Pieper, The Platonic Myths)—is represented here by ‘that singer, her throat, a pulsating stem, / her dancing movement….”

All gone into that dark night of the universal abyss? Well, yes. No! What remains remains with “me.” What remains with/because of “me” is beauty. But Milosz is nothing more than a mortal in the flux of the universal impermanence. Perhaps he means by “me” the voice of the poetry he wrote “down not to lose it.”

In Desmond’s sense, which also embodies our experience as readers, in the Distance of the Intimate Universal.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at tom.develyn@comcast.net. D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at http://tdevelyn.com and other sites.

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