Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rapt in words

photo of eagle pair courtship flight
© harrington
Welcome. Yesterday we enjoyed blue skies in My Minnesota. At least the skies were blue long enough to enable the writer to take this photo of what he believes are a pair of eagles in a courtship flight. [If you follow the link, you'll also find a Walt Whitman poem The Dalliance of the Eagles.] The opportunity to see eagles n Minnesota far exceeds what was available in New England as I was growing up there. That makes an experience like yesterday's uniquely Minnesotan for me. There's no comparison. If you pay careful attention, you might notice the lack of any reference to the continuing snow cover, last night's light dusting, and today's gray dreariness. I'm not writing about Winter any more this season. We've been harried enough by unseasonable weather. Let's now be rapt or at least joyful. Since we've settled that, let's take a look at part of one of Leslie Adrienne Miller's poems in Where One Voice Ends:
The Harriers

                                                ... Harrier
is from harrow, to torment, harass, assault,
also a cultivating implement set with spikes
for pulverizing soil. Significance falls apart
in my hands like a mist, though the harriers
have warm blood and four-chambered hearts.

The world they are offers no architecture
for an ethic: one dead language simply
rises through another, raptor, rapture,
and rape, for example, all sharing one
Latin root, rapere, to sieze. The harriers
are only beautiful and will not be pressed

into resurrections....
One of the reasons I like this selection is it provides an opportunity to think about one of Snyder's points that we haven't explored much. Snyder, in several of his essays, uses etymology to explicate the point he's trying to make. For poetry, he says "That it study mind and language -- language as wild system, mind as wild habitat, world as a 'making' (poem), poem as a creature of the wild mind." I think the excerpt above can be looked at as an explicit example of what Snyder has in mind. Two words are tracked to their dens. Yes, no? [An OED subscription would be an indulgence.] Language obviously evolves. English, with its mix of sources, perhaps more so than most. The parallel between language as a wild system and mind as wild habit in the making of poetry fascinates the fledgling ecologist in me. Please share any insights you might have. Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily, snow or shine. Come again when you can.