Poetry: Sight or Sound?
In yesterday's blog post, Dario Rivarossa and I briefly discussed the nature of poetry, partly sparked by a contrast that Dario sees between Dante and Milton, which he summarized:
Briefly: in Dante, words describe colors.Not knowing Italian, I can't judge about the validity of this contrast, here's how I stated my basic view:
In Milton, words create them (so to speak).
Visionary poetry must be sounded to be poetry. Is there any poetry that is purely visual?After writing those words, I happened to read a New York Times movie review by Manohla Dargis of Lee Chang-dong's recent film Poetry: "Consider an Apple, Consider the World" (February 10, 2011). In this film, a teacher explains poetry to a classroom of aspiring poets: "he holds up an apple and talks about seeing":
Some aspects are, of course . . . the shape of a poem on the page, which has even occasioned poems structured to look like butterflies, altars, and whatnot.
But poetry is fundamentally about sound, right?
The importance of seeing, seeing the world deeply, is at the heart of this quietly devastating, humanistic work from the South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong. Throughout the story, the teacher, a bespectacled man with an easy manner, will guide the students as each struggles to write a single poem, searching memories and emotions for inspiration. "Up till now, you haven't seen an apple for real," he says in that first class, as the film cuts to a student, Mija (Yun Jung-hee), sliding into a seat. "To really know what an apple is, to be interested in it, to understand it," he adds, "that is really seeing it." From the way the camera settles on Mija it's evident that he could substitute the word apple for woman -- or life.Isn't this serendipitous? Dario and I are discussing poetry in the context of Dante and Milton, whose two poems both stemmed from differing perspectives on a woman biting into an 'apple.' And the movie appears to speak for Dario's view, that poetry is basically about seeing . . . but I'll have to sound out the movie to see what I think about that. And more broadly, beyond poetry, about what it says concerning art:
At one point, Mija asks her poetry teacher with almost comic innocence, "When does a 'poetic inspiration' come?" It doesn't, he replies, you must beg for it. "Where must I go?" she persists. He says that she must wander around, seek it out, but that it's there, right where she stands. In truth, there is poetry everywhere, including in those who pass through her life, at times invisibly, like the handicapped retiree (Kim Hira) she cares for part time, a husk of a man whom she will at last also see clearly. The question that she doesn't ask is the why of art. She doesn't have to because the film -- itself an example of how art allows us to rise out of ourselves to feel for another through imaginative sympathy -- answers that question beautifully.Is that what art is about? Aesthetics as the art of feeling for others through imaginative sympathy? Isn't that more to do with ethics? Or do the two intersect here?
Anyway, for those interested, the trailer for the film, along with relevant information about story and cast, is viewable here.
UPDATE: Dario informs me that I misread him, clarifying that his "view is that poetry is basically about sounds." Hence, he and I are closer than I had thought.