The Hermit Poet

October 24, 2005

Aesthetic 1: Writing as Apocalypse

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:54 pm

“Everything that is dead quivers. Not only the things of poetry, stars, wood,
flowers, but even a white trouser button glittering out of a puddle in the street.
Everything has a secret soul, which is silent more often than it speaks.”
~ Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

What I want from my art and from my writing is to reveal what Kandinsky hints at in the above quote – to lay bare the “secret soul” of the seemingly ordinary world. Perhaps it is my rejection of a post-modernist world, an insistence instead that there must be something that lies behind each word, as amorphous as it may be. I hold onto an old belief that writing is akin to sculpting – there is a blankness presented before in the page, but buried in that blankness is the remarkable and astonishing. It is up to me as a writer to discover what lies within. It is my obligation as well to not flinch when I find it, be it terrifying or joyful, brilliant or dark.

To be an apocalyptic writer, I must approach language with an awareness of each word’s historical and psychological weight. While it is impossible to have a complete knowledge of all the ways history and prior writings might inform a reader’s experience with a word, an awareness of the complexity of the reading experience and a close crafting of each line can help tune the reader in to a much richer experience.

What is beautiful then? From the apocalyptic standpoint, beauty arises out of the countless unfoldings of the natural world. The fractal and the infinite. To approach each object, place, and person with an exacting attention to detail will only reveal more astonishing detail, more unexpected beauty. It is an artichoke full of wings to echo Neruda. It is that white trouser button abandoned in a street puddle beneath the moon.

Perhaps it is the programmer in me that seeks this quarrying for a core. It is after all a recursive act to call upon the same function – examine_item(x) – which calls upon itself with increasing specificity until at last it reaches the indivisible and singular self, which can only be called its “secret soul.”

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