Post by Prithvijeet Sinha on Jan 6, 2023 9:57:02 GMT -5
I knew this work would be placed at the top of the tentpole when discussing about Joan Retallack's unique oeuvre. I am glad I had read it and put it on my radar before this particular assignment. I say that because it has made me happy to imbibe the non-traditional manner of reading.
The opening lines produce an enigma,a quiet melody,an euphony even when the language is seemingly stark. "Located in memories without precedent" is an expert line that attests to the clean slate in which original ideas receive their first break, where "fine stock of syllables not yet squandered in pliant affirmation" is an expression for all the writers, creators and iconoclasts who wish to make a mark without repeating the models left to them by prior voices or established models. The "fine stock of syllables" can be interpreted as a wonderful metaphor for the unblemished, innocent charm of new writers who chime in as a collective, an unit.
Then there's an affirmation to not fear judgement as the sundry, myriad of critical voices are only a handful, it's just that their self-proclaimed pompousness can be overhearing for the inexperienced. Yielding to criticism and its chorus is not to be committed to. They can be anonymous mostly and yet vitiate the bloom of creativity with their aura.
One of the most important verses here is, "Yearning minds conjure thoughts/ bound to deform the musculature of the most determined smile"; to me, it's not very complex but flows with reality of a practical bent. Of course, there are physical markers of convention and gatekeeping, the musculature of proper etiquettes and patronage that almost always fail to determine a healthy start for the most promising minds. Enquiry and a lack of capitulation to the established status quo has to be the core principle governing those wishing to usher in a new wave of thought, art or life-force in general.
The final line is absolutely wholesome, in my opinion. Ms. Retallack suggests that the only pure, true manner of living is to never give up dreaming of better opportunities and self-motivating ourselves to break the mould, shunt out old-school values and prevail. We have to make sure that it's something we abide by and not just hold off for sooner or later dilemmas. Now is the time to create a space without worrying about the vanguards of legitimacy.
This poem is yearning for dreaming, but sometimes dreaming, in a uniqueness that is together with "animal, mineral, vegetable." Logically, it doesn't make sense. I enjoy reading it for some great phrases: "fine stock of syllables not yet squandered."
Post by Vijaya Maddali on Jan 6, 2023 12:24:47 GMT -5
The most comprehensible and significant line in this one is the one about 'yearning minds' And these are set up as opposed to the determination of the fixed smiles. She has this wonderful capacity to present binaries in a very fresh way. I loved her setting up of the tortoise and the hare and it reveals so much of western civilization. Here, I see the yearning minds as those belonging to artists, poets, and anyone who engages with the world with imagination and intuition. ( In her book on poethics she in fact refers to 'play' as in what children indulge in as something that is similar to the artist's and the explorer/scientist's way of engaging with reality.) And that tight 'determined smile' brings up the way mass media/popular culture has created artificial values. I am still grappling with that last line about 'dreaming' humans dream, maybe animals but vegetables and minerals - do they dream?
I love the alliteration of "stock of syllables not yet squandered." She refers to it as a "determined" smile, as if one is yearning to be happy. She seems to imply that thoughts are more powerful than actions, for thoughts can deform a smile. Joan contrasts reality with dreams, showing a clear preference for the latter. For me, the sentences somewhat flow but "Don't be scared" jarred me, as it is shorter than the rest and addresses the reader directly.
Post by stacyantoniadis on Jan 6, 2023 15:15:27 GMT -5
For me, the sentences flow from one to the next. I consider the thought experiment as compartmentalizing a place in the mind to further dream, to free associate. Yearning the determined smile, wanting a smile to reflect a true feeling or experience; yet yearning something for more than what something really is. "hard to forget what's never been known for sure".
"A fine stock of syllables not yet squandered..." love this! Syllables make up words with meaning...that they are not wasted.
Post by marciacamino on Jan 6, 2023 15:34:42 GMT -5
As for what kind of 'thought experiment is the speaker proposing, I think this is about the act of writing and reading and discussion of text. In particular, I find 'don't be scared' and 'none too soon' to be of the invitational manner to the writer. And the yearning minds that make up their interpretations of what is presented to them is gloriously, and of course necessarily, open and conjuring (and therefore unique but also spelled and available to all to enjoy, too), and that can dash the muscle of the creator, the piece's progenitor, but that is necessary, but to save the day, the speaker lets us all step into brackets (or step around them...I'm not sure) and just do what we do: engage and keep dreaming.
The form--prose, prose poem, prose-esque--is a blocky state and works well because it seems to be a philosophical and even a little bit of a how-to manual for the reader and writer alike, so give it all in one chunk. Line breaks would have leaned the message a little toward the writer side. Line breaks are the poet's work, not the reader's. So by using non-line breaks, or at least appearing to straight prose, the Retallack is even-ing out the playing field. Democratic brackets and all that, and yes, that's poetic!
1. How do you respond to the sentences of this prose poem—I mean, the sentences as one follows (or: doesn't follow) from the other?
One follows after the other. That is there are two things going on here. The outer poem, and the inner poem. The inner poem flows line by line, only referencing the line before. So: don't be afraid/blunders; blunders/what we aren't sure of; what we aren't not sure of/yearning minds.
Yearning minds doesn't necessarily flow from don't be afraid. But it flows from A -> B -> C-> etc
Then there is the outer poem, which brings it all together in one whole: if only we could all dream the same dreams - (wo)man, animal, vegetable - we'd all be better. Rather than being stuck in the past with our past blunders.
Philosophical prose like this is certainly poetic, in the sense of distillation of complex ideas into succinct images. There’s so much contained in “Hard to forget what’s never been known for sure,” for example. I think the poem can engage the reader in a way that the essay doesn’t. The essay makes a case, whereas the poem invites the reader to explore the situation. In this poem, Retallack invites us to conduct a thought experiment (she doesn’t demand it or say it’s the only or right way—she just says it’s the only worthwhile one she currently knows about). And that invitation is consistent with her claim elsewhere (writing about essays) that experiments like this bring the writer and reader together. A lot of philosophical prose, on the other hand, aims to draw lines in the sand that separate believers from nonbelievers.
Inquiring minds want to know, and the thoughts produced by yearning to know can generate consternation and erode even the smuggest, most “knowing” smiles of the official knowers.
What might those thoughts look like (the thought experiment asks) if we and everything around us occasionally lapsed into dreaming? I wondered how I might even go about constructing anything logical under illogical conditions (dreaming minerals?). Is this even possible? I’ll never know until I try, I think she says, and few of us have the courage even to try.
Does the title ("None Too Soon") suggest that the need to undertake this experiment (or one like it) is especially timely? Or urge us to do so before it’s too late? Can we ever know for sure? I don’t have good answers to any of these.
[For me, it’s nearly impossible not to read this poem in the context of having recently viewed the PoemTalk on JR’s The Poethical Wager. Here, especially, “Radical unknowability is the only constant.” But we still need to muster the courage “to forge on, to launch our hopes into the unknown—the future—by engaging positively with otherness and unintelligibility.”]
Post by C.J. Prince on Jan 6, 2023 16:55:54 GMT -5
The compliant smile, means forced, not connected, the way many of us have been trained, smile, don't think. Retallack jumps about my brian, like the former hare, the fact that I cannot figure out how to use this format, format, password, pass the butter, pass the invitation of diving down, past Alice, does it matter? I love reading, seeing other comments, in this unfriendly font, what? -4 And now I can't find Zach to see, but I won't see, will I? Or hear, maybe. Both. I don't think I'm permitted to be included in this and yet I feel totally engaged. Would love an emoji--or some such, a redundant image of multiple poets merged, say HD and no, not Emily, ah, well, I'd like to consider that. Thank you all for your comments. C.J.
First off, I was intrigued by the differences between the printed (final?) version of the poem and the poem JR read in 2013. For instance, in the print version, the syllables have been squandered, and in the reading, not yet. The text poem has the sentence "Don't be scared," but the reading doesn't. Tracking these differences makes me feel closer to the process of poem-making, the thoughts and decisions behind it. The struggle to articulate; or perhaps, the struggle to let go of articulation. So, start at the top, None Too Soon. Arriving at exactly the moment before the situation goes from bad to worse, thereby preventing the worse from happening. It's a cliffhanger. From there we're thrown into a turbulent environment: memories, syllables, pliant affirmation, but: Don't be scared. OK, I'll carry on. Now comes a contradiction: non-existent gods counting blunders. Things can't be too serious then. Next, some clichés, then a sentence that twists and turns and leaves me uncertain who is speaking. There are so many shifts in this poem that I feel like I've travelled a hundred miles by the time I get to the final sentence. Which opens with a value judgement and a challenge, i.e., to construct a logical space-time bracket. Again, a koan. How do we construct that which cannot be grasped? But perhaps that's the point. To construct that which we do not yet know, that which is the dreaming; to be open to the dream, even if only sometimes. Because how can we change everything if we keep doing only what we know? lou
Post by Elisabeth Frischauf on Jan 6, 2023 19:07:48 GMT -5
This piece has caused the following tanka to emerge: None too soon...
o. oo, oo--sh, sh-- ok. What emerges no one significant counts. Think, yearn logical, we all dream, burst forth fresh syllables
The original follows as a conversation/challenge to the reader/listener. The writer's double-speak is as in dreams and admonitions, requiring attention and taking apart to put together as in: "hard to forget what's never been known before." Well, for sure. It's hard to forget something you or implied no one else knew, but then the yearning mind conjures. Up against the wall of the smile- a Mona Lisa smile, an Edward Hopper enigma face?- those thoughts "deform the musculature," behind the determination to hide or pretend or contain.
We humans process emotionally in our brain if someone is angry, even though they may smile and we convince ourselves "Oh, so and so isn't really angry...", because the fine muscles around the mouth tighten and also around the eyes. I believe this scientifically minded author knows this and has found a poetic way to say it.
How she plays with us! Pliant we become! Logical experiment devolves into dreaming of the animal, vegetable and mineral-- like the question game I played on long car rides where you ask ist it animal, vegetable or mineral of the holder of the secret and then I guess and narrow down with some given clues. I don't know if Ms. Retallack is alluding to this, but to me adding the game aspect of all her other affirmations to add a dimension of play which like a joke can make what is said more significant.