Tuesday, April 14, 2009

To the snow-covered island

There's a Tomas Tranströmer poem called 'From March 1979' that I was thinking of mentioning in the previous posting, but didn't because there seems to be a difference in the way it describes writing in the landscape. Tranströmer comes across tracks in the snow - a natural sign, rather than something that happens to remind the poet of linguistic signs. The poem starts with Tranströmer weary of words, 'words but no language'. He goes to a snow-covered island, which resembles unwritten pages, and in the tracks of the deer sees 'language but no words.'

In an article for Poetry Review Jay Parini says that 'this archetypal poem forms a tiny myth, describing a literal journey with symbolic dimensions, thus extending the metaphor in various directions. Most of us who read a good deal are sick of those “who come with words, words but no language.” This revulsion often propels a poem into being, as in Yeats’s “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.” One arrives in the land of silence: “Wilderness has no words.” The metaphor rapidly becomes a conceit, as the unprinted fields of snow become “unprinted pages.” The sleight of mind in the last stanza is, again, typical: Tranströmer deepens the image unexpectedly, giving a literal level – the deer’s footprints in the snow – and a range of associations, as we are left contemplating this “language without words” – which (in my own association) is akin to Chomsky’s Universal Grammar – which underlies speech, underwrites silence itself.'

1 comment:


Wonderful blog, I would follow him. I search for Sung Ti (paintings-the eight scenes of Hsiao-Hsiang,) for the Ezra Pound poem: seven lakes! you have any idea where can I find