Monday, November 19, 2012

"Acts of incompletion, acts of fragmentary insight, . . . a kind of joyous invitation to reread"

I was mugged a couple weeks ago in broad daylight, pepper sprayed for my stupid phone. 

Today, I walked alone on the street for the first time since it happened.  Only a block or two to a bookstore, but I was proud.  And I forced myself to focus on the cool night air and the exhilarating sense of being out in the early dark of a fall evening.  I bought a poem for 50 cents out of a gumball machine, Old Bones by Gary Snyder.  And I stood in the doorway, facing out into the night and read and reread.
The key issue here is the sense of what cannot be analyzed or explained. A major act of interpretation gets nearer and nearer to the heart of the work, and it never comes too near. The exciting distance of a great interpretation is the failure, the distance, where it is helpless. But its helplessness is dynamic, is itself suggestive, eloquent and articulate. The best acts of reading are acts of incompletion, acts of fragmentary insight, of that which refuses paraphrase, metaphrase; which finally say, “The most interesting in all this I haven't been able to touch on.” But which makes that inability not a humiliating defeat or a piece of mysticism but a kind of joyous invitation to reread. - George Steiner

Out there walking round, looking out for food,
a rootstock, a birdcall, a seed that you can crack
plucking, digging, snaring, snagging,
         barely getting by,

no food out there on dusty slopes of scree—
carry some—look for some,
go for a hungry dream.
Deer bone, Dall sheep,
         bones hunger home.

Out there somewhere
a shrine for the old ones,
the dust of the old bones,
         old songs and tales.

What we ate—who ate what—
         how we all prevailed.

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