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A Poetic Flying Envelop March 3, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Writing.
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In a previous chapter, “The Ponds”, Thoreau criticizes the name given to Flint’s Pond, arguing that “if the fairest features of the landscape are to be named after men, let them be the noblest and worthiest men alone. Let our lakes receive as true names at least as the Icarian Sea…” (197). His main argument against Flint is that he only sees the money value of the pond, oblivious of the privilege of simply beholding its beauties. Flint would “carry the landscape [and even] his God, to market, if he could get any thing for him”. From Thoreau’s perspective Flint worships mammon:”…whose trees [bear] no fruits, but dollars…whose fruits are not ripe for him tillthey are turned to dollars” (196).The reference to Icarus, whose “brave attempt [the shore] resounds” (197), seems to be a celebration of doing something (whether flying, fishing, farming, meditating or writing a poem) just for the sheer joy of doing, without concerning oneself with outcome or possible profit. In this context ‘doing’ seems to be a profit in and of itself. Daedalus built wings to escape the labyrinth, flying for him is means to an end. For Icarus flying is an end in and of itself.

Paraglider-pilots who do not concern themselves with the thrills of acro-flights or the glory of cross competitions do exactly that: fly for the sheer joy of flying,becoming one with the wind, sharing the sky with the birds. From a paraglider-pilot’s perspective Icarus is a case of a pilot exceeding his flying envelop, recklessly ignoring ballast and moderation, giving in to the thrill of pushing the limit.
Margaret Fuller argues that “poetry…in its essential being [is] a recreative spirit that sings to sing”. Are a poet’s words his wings ? Icarus can be regarded as representing the danger embedded in complete absorption. Being so immersed in what he is doing, he is literally lost in flight.What is the ballast of a poet who “sings to sing” ? Should there be a poetic”flying envelop” ? Icarus is brought as an example of “the noblest and worthiest men”, is the fisher-poet a more down to earth, ballast-conscious daedal model of the “recreative spirit” ?

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A Winged-Poet, A Fisher-Poet March 3, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Writing.
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Henry David Thoreau’s “Brute Neighbors” opens with a dialogue between a Hermit and a Poet. Sound intertwines with thought in the Hermit’s observations, while the poet mingles sight with memory in his communion with the clouds and the sky. Along the conversation, the poet proclaims himself to be a fisherman: “[Fishing] is the true industry for poets…the only trade I have ever learned” (224).

Later on Thoreau asks “why should not a poet’s cat be winged as well as his horse ?” (233). I wonder whether he believed the poet himself is winged.

Notes:

  1. All references to Walden are from Henry David Thoreau, Walden. Ed. by J. Lyndon Shanley. Introduction by Joyce Carol Oates (Princeton University Press, 1988).
  2. Historically speaking, the Fisher-Poet is Thoreau’s friend, William Ellery Channing, the younger.
  3. J. Lyndon Shanley suggests in The Making of Walden (1957), that this dialogue can be regarded as a comic interlude allowing a descent from “Higher Laws” to “Brute Neighbors”.

Daedal Practicality February 4, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Poetry, Writing.
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As much as she modeled herself upon the myth of spontaneous creativity, Sexton was well aware of the unavoidable drudgery of re-writing and revising, the inescapable daedal craftsmanship that gives integrity and order to the topsy-turvy icarian enthusiasm. Icarus’ flight into the sun can be seen as the uninhibited, chaotic stage of creation, a stage Sexton also referred to as “milking of the unconscious”. In this primal phase, the poet turns off the inner daedal-voice that constrains creativity within known boundaries, completely immersing herself in the raw material produced by the foolhardy unconscious: “You have to turn off the little critic while you are beginning a poem so that it doesn’t inhibit you. Then you have to turn it on again when you are revising and refining”.
Practical Daedalus, Sexton’s “little critic”, can be regarded as the phase of aesthetic structuring, the reconstitution of order. Order and chaos are explored and expressed through poetry: “it’s within a woman to create, to make order, [writing poetry] puts things back in place…things are more chaotic, and if I can write a poem, I come into order again…the world is again a little more sensible and real” (interview with Patricia Marx, 1965).

Works Cited:
J.D. McClatchy, Anne Sexton: The Artist and Her Critics (Indiana UP, 1978).