JUXTAPOSITIONS Charles Wright “Littlefoot: 19”


More generally, in the wording that song first is, there is something prior to the dianoetics of form—-there is the elemental energy of forming, of transcending—-there is transit and transience….Put otherwise: drop down below the form, beyond fixed form to an emerging energy that voices itself, that sings itself; if one does not dip down, or allow oneself to enter again these flowing waters, one will not be ready for what against expectation communicates itself; the daring of entering the flow means the risk of dissolution. Music as form that is forming and formless, as intimate yet more than itself, as universal speaking to all, even those who resist. It reminds one of the graced porosity of true prayer—-one is taken by the music.
William Desmond, The Intimate Universal, 91.

The juxtaposition of the loose, shaggy, meandering, self-involved lyric and the philosopher’s vision of the Intimate Universal seems natural, almost automatic, even perhaps tautological; as a juxtaposition of lyric and philosophy it raises questions. Wright’s poem follows, in a desultory masterly fashion, the lyric narrative from situation through vivid descriptions to a raw open question that seems to admit defeat for the questing self. That mocking bird pulls no punches. Nihilism haunts the “gnat-floating season.” We are checked by the serene closure of “unlove.”

Au contrair, says the philosopher, taken by the music of the forming formlessness of the music.

The poem takes a breath. The lyric narrative, confronting nihilism and unlove as terminal, holds the corona, recognizing a tiny voice in the chorus. Wright’s “voice” combines strong Metaphysical lines and images of effortless eloquence. Sung Chinese blandness revoiced in American English! Wright’s voice is the voice, for want of a better word, of the Intimate Universal. It dares, in the end, to (re)enter the flow.

The lyric “you” refocuses the depleted idealistic self with energies sourced elsewhere. Three feet off the ground and going nowhere.

Note: Desmond’s allusion to prayer is to a mode of consciousness not a dogmatics. If one does not dip down…. It goes with the territory.

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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