Monday, December 07, 2009

rope, envelopes, Bishop

Posted by PicasaReady to hoist a cradle for window cleaners these ropes possess a quality of usefulness postponed.
An artist whom I know draws on the back of used envelopes. The envelopes, she says, by virtue of their redundant state, make less extreme demands on her than proper drawing paper. I say that I know what she means. She dates her drawings and puts them in batches in larger envelopes for storage. I suggest that she might arrange the drawings in a big book side by side on the page, where the drawings and the envelopes would display their distinctive qualities to best effect. She says, that's a good idea.
In the book on Elizabeth Bishop which I bought serendipitously from Amazon, I begin to read an essay on Bishop by Miriam Bellehigue, Mâitre de conference á la universitée de Paris, Sorbonne.
It is called Four Poems: humilité, intermittance et plaisir. This is the price, I say to myself, that I have to pay for careless ordering. But one of the four poems subjected to analysis is the sestina which led me back to reading Bishop a few months ago. And I relish, though do not entirely agree with it, the judgement quoted by Bellehigue, in a letter from Bishop to Marianne Moore, that the sestina is "just a sort of stunt". Bishop of course takes the form more seriously than that as the poem testifies. But oh my goodness, I have put my toe in the waters of academe and I think that I will quite soon remove it.


Lucy said...

The ropes look slightly menacing to me...

I suppose there is a danger that playing around with more and more complicated form becomes something of a stunt, that the use of form becomes the main point rather than what is being said. But not necessarily. Yes, these smartarse academics can be inveterate killjoys.

Much of Marianne Moore's poetry is actually based on syllable count, isn't it? I don't know enough of it to confirm that, but I've heard it is. It's not evident, as it's not in recognisable syllable counted forms or anything, so it's quite possible to read it without being aware of it.

Roderick Robinson said...

Sestina as a stunt? I think you can safely say you have put that canard to rest.

Unknown said...

I thought they were menacing, Lucy. But the image was interesting.
I have never thought much about the form of Marianne Moore's poetry. I think I like it too much to analyse it. She uses language as precisely as anyone I know. The form seems to come from stress rather than syllable count, but I think I would be too busy enjoying her wit to check.

BB: Canard may be, but Elizabeth Bishop's own beautiful sestina in her Complete Poems does the job for me.