the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

gluck on truth in poetry

Posted by rigorousm on November 12, 2014

Distinctive voice is inseparable from distinctive substance; it cannot be grafted on. Berryman began to sound like Berryman when he invented Mr. Bones, and so was able to project two ideas simultaneously. Presumably, in Love and Fame, we have a single speaker — commentator might be a better word. But the feel of the poems is very like that of The Dream Songs; Mr. Bones survives in an arsenal of sinister devices, particularly in the stinging, undermining tag lines. The poems pretend to be straight gossip, straight from the source; like gossip, they divert and entertain. But the soure deals in mixed messages; midway through, the reader is recalled from the invited error:

MESSAGE

Amplitude, — voltage, — the one friend calls for the one,

the other for the other, in my work;

in verse & prose. Well, hell.

I am not writing an autobiography-in-verse, my friends.

Impressions, structures, tales, from Columbia in the thirties

& the michaelmas term at Cambridge in 36,

followed by some later. It’s not my life.

That’s occluded and lost.

On the page, “autobiography-in-verse” is a single ladylike word, held together by malicious hyphens.

What’s real in the passage is despair. Which owes, in part, to the bitter notion that invention is wasted.

— Louise Gluck, “Against Sincerity,” Proofs & Theories, p 44.

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