Mercurial Cathexis

Poetry accounts for the gap between ideas that need expressing and the structural and lexicological limitations of language. Portmanteaux, neologisms, idiolects are natural, phenomenological necessities in linguistic evolution, but also of man generally, as the development of language itself allows new insights into the nature of being.  Poetry should make us dizzy, make experience new, should not be graspable on a first scan, even positing an exhaustive conscious and subconscious reference key, an etymological encyclopaedia and a discursive apperception of the coalescent language manifold in the author’s author.  The words should outrun their composer.  It’s the suffocation of the unified totality of mental processes through which language as art is meant to cut.  But in divesting the creative agent, perhaps the other is confounded?  No danger; torpor is the only obstacle, for with the cognition of recursion as solution, articulation becomes rain for humid insipidity.  But, are there many other fissures in this felicific calculus?

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Mercurial Cathexis

  1. josie

    Hey Mr. Klein, through which email may I most readily access your attention during the summer? Also, it’s a pleasure to see “felicific,” but don’t you think that at a certain point this kind of writing crosses the line from an deft use of complex linguistics to a sort of verbosity (I may or may not be missing a major point in your commentary here).

    • mrklein

      I check all of my email addresses regularly…so it matters not. As the email you wrote was lengthy, I elected to put off responding until I had a bit more time to sit and write. You can expect a response…pretty soon. Felicific calculus is a specific reference to Bentham. As a general rule, I refuse to defend my poetry…either you like it or you don’t. I composed this particular poem almost entirely in a dream; I woke up scribbling.

      • josie

        Good to know! I love writing experiences like that – ones that you can’t quite explain and seem to come directly from the subconscious.

  2. Shaun

    This is interesting, but it certainly puts a lot of pressure on amateurs trying their hand at poetry. Also, based on what you’ve written, poetry is an awfully difficult object to deal with in the classroom. Teachers hoping to achieve some degree of consensus as to a poem’s meaning or intent will probably not succeed (and perhaps should not). So what do you think about classes devoted entirely to poetry? How should they go about “teaching” a poem, which is often so much more abstruse than prose?

    W/r/t your writing style: What do you think of Thoreau’s advice to “simplify, simplify”? (I’m not trying to be snarky here, I’m actually asking you).

    • mrklein

      This was a poem rather than an philosophical aphorism. “Teaching” poetry is challenging. Reading and meaning making need not be. Poetry should be experienced first…and then, if the spirit moves, examined a bit more thoroughly. One can certainly enjoy a poem without getting all of the references and hidden meanings, but re-readings and investigations can be fruitful. Thoreau had Eastern stars in his eyes. His advice is valid but not universally applicable. For instance, in prose writing the fewest words are best. When the intent is to convey meaning with clarity and directness, to assure fidelity of understanding, simplify. Likewise, with poetry, superfluity is to be eschewed, generally…especially when considering the sublime (in this case style, voice and sound matter). Yet, sometimes, poetry is about expressing the inexpressible. That is elusive by definition. But how do words get their meanings?

      • Josie

        I have been thinking about that last question my self. Do meanings precede words? Or do words in fact supersede their originally intended “idea” by forming the way the speaker thinks? At what point did language cross the line, going from a tool used to express the inexpressible to a moulder of thought/belief/boundary of conscious thought? Did it happen the moment that homo sapiens began to use language? Does it happen, on a microcosm of a scale, in every human child who begins to speak? These are curious thoughts to muse on, no doubt limited in their final conclusion by the language they are expressed in! It’s an inescapable trap.

  3. Sam

    Linguistics has some answers to questions like this. Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist, wrote a book called The Language Instinct, which is basically an accessible pop-sci introduction to linguistics. In it, he goes over the history of the “language vs. thought” problem. Benjamin Whorf, an early 20th century linguist ( though not a very good one as it turns out) became famous for suggesting that language shaped perception of reality. Most linguists today seem to agree that Whorf far overestimated the effect of language on thought, but that it has some influence on the way we think is beyond question.

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