sean mcalister
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escape into purity
10 January 2012

escape into purity, by wolfgang bauer
as quoted in jan turnovsky's 'the poetics of a wall projection,' from wolfgang bauer's 1981 book 'das herz'

i am pursued by a horde of analogies
i want to escape
their sweet utility
on which i have gorged myself
for too long.

i know that the tree is a tree-of-life
that life is a dream
that the soul is as deep as the sea
and death a constant companion

i that the heavens are a tapestry
that the buzzing of bees a song
and that there are two sides to every coin
that woman is a goddess
reality an illusion...
the city a sea of houses
the night a mantle
the sun a ball
the moon a sickle.
out with you,
you cooing metaphors
i want to make poetry:

under the blue sky
in a green meadow
sits a beautiful woman
in her hand is a bunch of daisies
her dress is blue.
in a dark room a man
sits and eats his soup
he quickly empties the bowl
wipes his mouth and
goes down into the cellar.

the pretty woman comes home
the man is already sitting with his wine
she makes him a bite to eat
oh, how fine.

how beautiful and simple is the world
how joyous a life
without metaphors.

the art of fiction
excerpts from an interview with jorges luis borges, as quoted in 'the paris review's transcribed-interview of as 1966. the interviewer is ronald christ

What made you decide to study Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse?

I began by being very interested in metaphor. And then in some book or other—I think in Andrew Lang's History of English Literature—I read about the kennings, metaphors of Old English, and in a far more complex fashion of Old Norse poetry. Then I went in for the study of Old English. Nowadays, or rather today, after several years of study, I'm no longer interested in the metaphors because I think that they were rather a weariness of the flesh to the poets themselves—at least to the Old English poets.

To repeat them, you mean?

To repeat them, to use them over and over again and to keep on speaking of thehranrad[FLAT THINGIE OVER 2ND A], waelrad[FLAT THINGIE OVER 2ND A], or “road of the whale” instead of “the sea”—that kind of thing—and “the seawood,” “the stallion of the sea” instead of “the ship.” So I decided finally to stop using them, the metaphors, that is; but in the meanwhile I had begun studying the language, and I fell in love with it


I remember a joke of Oscar Wilde's: a friend of his had a tie with yellow, red, and so on in it, and Wilde said, Oh, my dear fellow, only a deaf man could wear a tie like that!

He might have been talking about the yellow necktie I have on now.

Ah, well. I remember telling that story to a lady who missed the whole point. She said, “Of course, it must be because being deaf he couldn't hear what people were saying about his necktie.” That might have amused Oscar Wilde, no?

I'd like to have heard his reply to that.

Yes, of course. I never heard of such a case of something being so perfectly misunderstood. The perfection of stupidity. Of course, Wilde's remark is a witty translation of an idea; in Spanish as well as English you speak of a “loud color.” A “loud color” is a common phrase, but then the things that are said in literature are always the same. What is important is the way they are said. Looking for metaphors, for example: When I was a young man I was always hunting for new metaphors. Then I found out that really good metaphors are always the same. I mean you compare time to a road, death to sleeping, life to dreaming, and those are the great metaphors in literature because they correspond to something essential. If you invent metaphors, they are apt to be surprising during the fraction of a second, but they strike no deep emotion whatever. If you think of life as a dream, that is a thought, a thought that is real, or at least that most men are bound to have, no? “What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed.” I think that's better than the idea of shocking people, than finding connections between things that have never been connected before, because there is no real connection, so the whole thing is a kind of juggling.

Juggling just words?

Just words. I wouldn't even call them real metaphors because in a real metaphor both terms are really linked together. I have found one exception—a strange, new, and beautiful metaphor from Old Norse poetry. In Old English poetry a battle is spoken of as the “play of swords” or the “encounter of spears.” But in Old Norse, and I think, also, in Celtic poetry, a battle is called a “web of men.” That is strange, no? Because in a web you have a pattern, a weaving of men, un tejido. I suppose in medieval battle you got a kind of web because of having the swords and spears on opposite sides and so on. So there you have, I think, a new metaphor; and, of course, with a nightmare touch about it, no? The idea of a web made of living men, of living things, and still being a web, still being a pattern. It is a strange idea, no?

It corresponds, in a general way, to the metaphor George Eliot uses in Middlemarch, that society is a web and one cannot disentangle a strand without touching all the others.

[With great interest] Who said that?

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