November 6, 2017

Poetry as Technique: Strange and Wonderful

Poetry is all details. It's physiological. Poetry is breath, and poetry is perception. Schlovsky writes about the technique in art of defamiliarizing the familiar and slowing perception. He also applies this to poetry. Here are excerpts of Victor Schlovsky's essay "Art as Technique:"
And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar," to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object…
In my article on plot construction I write about defamiliarization in psychological parallelism. Here, then, I repeat that the perception of disharmony in a harmonious context is important in parallelism. The purpose of parallelism, like the general purpose of imagery, is to transfer the usual perception of an object into the sphere of new perception - that is, to make a unique semantic modification.
In studying poetic speech in its phonetic and lexical structure as well as in its characteristic distribution of words, and in the characteristic thought structures compounded-from the words, we find everywhere the artistic trademark - that is, we find material obviously created to remove the automatism or perception; the author's purpose is to create the vision which results from that deautomatized perception. A work is created "artistically" so that its perception is impeded and the greatest possible effect is produced through the slowness of the perception. As a result of this lingering, the object is perceived not in its extension in space, but, so to speak, in its continuity. Thus "poetic language" gives satisfaction. According to Aristotle, poetic language must appear strange and wonderful; and, in fact, it is often actually foreign: the Sumerian used by the Assyrians, the Latin of Europe during the Middle Ages, the Arabisms of the Persians, the Old Bulgarian of Russian literature, or the elevated, almost literary language of folksongs. The language of, poetry is, then, a difficult, roughened, impeded language. 
As Schlovsky writes, "...the general purpose of imagery is to transfer the usual perception of an object into the sphere of new perception," and "the language of a difficult, roughened, impeded language."  This brings to mind the multitude of object poems and figurative techniques that take imaginative leaps.  Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo" comes to mind with the lines

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. 
And yet his torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside, 
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low, 

gleams in all its power. 
. . . . . . . .

This is a torso only, and yet the eyes are like ripening fruit, and the gaze "gleams in all its power." It is not entirely strange to refer to an all-knowing, all-seeing god, but the sense of perception coming from the marble statue is wonderful and unsettling. Aren't museums and statues meant to be seen and not seeing?  The up-ended expectation reverses the direction of perception. This creates a shift in self-perception, in consciousness:  a knowledge of being seen by Apollo. The narrator can no longer bear his old way of being. He speaks not in second person point of view as if the force of encounter has already removed him from the "I."  The poem ends with the memorable lines "for here there is no place / that does not see you. You must change your life."  The repeated words "you. You..." are nearly stuttering.  This new vision, mentioned by Schlovsky, or a "semantic modification" has haunting results. 

Readings & Book Signing

Poetry Reading  Nov 13, 2017 at 6 pm
Knights and Ladies of the Kaleva
Aallottaren Tupa 15, Duluth
Kenwood Lutheran Church,
2720 Myers Ave., Duluth.

Book Signing
Night Train Red Dust
November 25, 2017 2:00-3:00 pm
Zenith Bookstore
318 Central Ave N, Duluth, Minnesota 55807

Celebrating Our Common Ground
Saturday, December 2, 2017 7:00-9:00 pm 
Duluth Township Hall, Homestead Road, Duluth 55804
(This is a Community Arts and Heritage Event) Images, Words and Music.
Photography Exhibit, Drawings by students at NSCS, Music and Storytelling
I'll talk about writing about place and read a few excerpts of Night Train Red Dust: Poems of the Iron Range and new work in progress.  

November 5, 2017

Diane Jarvenpa, Poet: The Way She Told Her Story

I wrote this blurb for this forthcoming book of poems:

From the land of the midnight sun, deep forests, and rye fields comes a girl, a shape-shifter. In The Way She Told Her Story, Diane Jarvenpa explores Finnish women's history, immigrant stories, and the mother/daughter terrain: "...a shifting place/ not a country/ more a continent with moving borders." These poems were forged in the context of the Finnish Kalevala and also another text of the same era, a collection of ancient runes sung primarily by women, the Kanteletar. Jarvenpa comes to poetry through song, and through her own mother, poet Aili Jarvenpa. She has searched archives and found forgotten stories breathing with life, and she has blended these with her own. In one poem, a grandmother smokes a pipe and says, "in the center of the heart/ is a lie and a truth." This might be true of all women's stories. Past the stereotype of women who tend the home, marry and bear children and past the stereotypes of those women that refuse the domestic roles, we glimpse the true ways that women create their lives and their communities. The women in these poems are witches, mothers, housekeepers, artists, journalists, vagabonds, and revolutionaries. Genealogy is here, but also "an inheritance of common things" that transforms into a new language of lyric, script, potter's wheel, poetry, and flight. The immigrant undergoes difficult passage. It takes courage to leave everything behind to enter a new landscape and a new language. This is a testament to creativity and resilience that this poet puts in the reader's hand. I love this book! Diane Jarvenpa, like her poem The Rune Singer, "sleeps a different breath of notes/ until dawn is strewn with magpies." (Publisher: New Rivers Press (scheduled for late November 2017) ISBN-13: 978-0898233667

--Sheila Packa
former Duluth Poet Laureate
author of Night Train Red Dust and Cloud Birds

About Diane Jarvi's album of kantele music, Bittersweet.

“Bittersweet is a fusion sound and a melding of both Finnish and American folk traditions; the album embodies both musical landscapes. Jarvi has taken the Nordic sound and also brought it into American folk, sometimes evoking mountain music and café accordion sound. Her voice is resonant, rich, and she uses it like an instrument. Many (but not all) of the lyrics are in Finnish, and this lends an aching and beautiful element. Her skills as a poet are also present in her music. She evokes the flight of a sea bird and sparrow and the feeling of wandering in the first snow amid falling stars. Even if one does not follow the exact words, her expressive voice carries the meaning. There is a mystery that she weaves from the landscape, the sounds, and the stories. Buy this album. Not only will you support this strong musical and poetic voice, you will cross untravelled regions of your soul and be glad for the journey.” -Sheila Packa and Kathy McTavish –New World Finn

See her website