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children of the universe

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  • louise
    It is by their syllables that words juxtapose in beauty, by these particles of sound as clearly as by the sense of the words which they compose. In any given
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2004
      "It is by their syllables that words juxtapose in beauty, by these
      particles of sound as clearly as by the sense of the words which
      they compose. In any given instance, because there is a choice of
      words, the choice, if a man is in there, will be, spontaneously, the
      obedience of his ear to the syllables. The fineness, and the
      practice, lie here, at the minimum and source of speech.

      O western wynd, when wilt thou blow
      And the small rain down shall rain
      O Christ that my love were in my arms
      And I in my bed again

      It would do no harm, as an act of correction to both prose and verse
      as now written, if both rime and meter, and, in the quantity words,
      both sense and sound, were less in the forefront of the mind than
      the syllable, if the syllable, that fine creature, were more allowed
      to lead the harmony on. With this warning, to those who would try:
      to step back here to this place of the elements and minims of
      language, is to engage speech where it is least careless - and least
      logical. Listening for the syllables must be so constant and so
      scrupulous, the exaction must be so complete, that the assurance of
      the ear is purchased at the highest - 40 hours a day - price. For
      from the root out, from all over the place, the syllable comes, the
      figures of, the dance:

      "Is" comes from the Aryan root, *as, to breathe. The English "not"
      equals the Sanscrit *na, which may come from the root *na, to be
      lost, to perish. "Be" is from *bhu, to grow.

      I say the syllable, king, and that it is spontaneous, this way: the
      ear, the ear which has collected, which has listened, the ear, which
      is so close to the mind that it is the mind's, that it has the
      mind's speed ...
      it is close, another way: the mind is brother to this sister and is,
      because it is so close, is the drying force, the incest, the
      sharpener ...
      it is from the union of the mind and the ear that the syllable is
      But the syllable is only the first child of the incest of verse
      (always, that Egyptian thing, it produces twins!). The other child
      is the LINE. And together, these two, the syllable *and the line,
      they make a poem, they make that thing, the - what shall we call it,
      the Boss of all, the "Single Intelligence." And the line comes (I
      swear it) from the breath, from the breathing of the man who writes,
      at the moment that he writes, and thus is, it is here that, the
      daily work, the WORK, gets in, for only he, the man who writes, can
      declare, at every moment, the line its metric and its ending - where
      its breathing, shall come to, termination.
      Let me put it baldly. The two halves are:
      the HEAD, by way of the EAR, to the SYLLABLE
      the HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE
      And the joker? that it is in the 1st half of the proposition that,
      in composing, one lets-it-rip; and that it is in the 2nd half,
      surprise, it is the LINE that's the baby that gets, as the poem is
      getting made, the attention, the control, that it is right here, in
      the line, that the shaping takes place, each moment of the going."

      An extract from the immense and enduringly truthful article,
      PROJECTIVE VERSE, by Charles Olson, originally published,
      'Poetry New York No.3, 1950'
      'Selected Writings of Charles Olson', Ed. R.Creeley,
      New Directions [1951], this ed. 1966.

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