Taken radically out of context, Iain Sinclair (from his book about retracing John Clare’s footsteps from Epping Forest back to Northamptonshire, Edge of the Orison): “Vision is also a form of narrative” (p.18). Also, “Punctuation is superfluous when you transcribe the diction of a multitude of dumb things” (p. 21). “Transcribing the diction of a multitude of dumb things” seems true to me, especially as regards Clare, who, like Christopher Smart, understood the loquacity of dumb things, their fulsome testimonies.
Tranströmer also writes, in a fairly early poem, “Restraint, dreams, restraint.” Again, it’s not clear to me whether he is suggesting a circuit—a process, a progression—or simply articulating joints in the poetic body. But I do like this, much more than the usual, tired dialogue about form vs. content, etc. If we can say, with Levertov, that “Form is never more than a revelation of content,” can we also say that restraint is never more than revelation of dream?
What I’ve been reading: lately, Tomas Tranströmer, via The Great Enigma (translated by Robin Fulton). I read Tranströmer obsessively in the early-to-mid 2000s and fell in love with his sequence “Baltics.” I tried to teach “Baltics” twice, first in a seminar on “Poetry and the Uses of History” at Deep Springs College, and then at Kenyon in a second version of the same class, but neither time did I persuade my students. This is my first sojourn back with Tranströmer since 2007, and I love “Baltics” just as much as I ever did, for its laconic, even lapidary Modernism, that incorporates history (familial, political, economic—all history) without being constrained or judged by it.
I’m reminded of a line I jotted down a decade ago, and then forgot: “The poem which is completely possible” (The Great Enigma, p. 76). It’s not clear to me whether Tranströmer is calling for precisely that, or simply acknowledging that at best this is what we, each of us, are capable of, no more, no less.
Either way—or anyway—that’s where I like to stand, at the intersection of the possible poem.