Friday, January 30, 2009

To Anne Carson, RE: "MOLY: Variations on the Right to Remain Silent", an article in the journal "A Public Space", Issue No. 7

Ms. Carson,

Thank you for this essay, which, like most of your poetry, is violently direct even while tackling subject matter that is inherently indirect. Your writing style invokes mystery while retaining clarity, and I guess that's why you're so good at writing about the ineffable.

“In his tower overlooking the river Neckar, Hölderlin had a piano that he sometimes played so hard he broke the keys. But there were quiet days when he would just play and tilt back his head and sing. Those who heard said they could not tell, though they listened, what language it was.” -Anne Carson

“Often enough I tried language, often enough I tried song, but they didn’t hear you.”
- Hölderlin

“After all what else is one’s own language but a gigantic cacophonous cliché. Nothing has not been said before. The templates are set. Adam long ago named all the creatures. Reality is in chains.” -AC

“When Francis Bacon approaches a white canvas its empty surface is already filled with the whole history of painting up to that moment, it is a compaction of all the cliches of representation already extant in the painter’s world…” -AC

“…the place inside a word where it falls silent in its own presence.” –AC

“Thousands of words went back and forth between Joan [of Arc] and her judges during the months of her inquisition; many of them are available to us in some form. But Joan herself was illiterate. She spoke Middle French at her trial, whose minutes were transcribed by a notary and later translated into Latin by one of her judges. This process involved not only the transposition of Joan’s direct responses into indirect speech and of her French idioms into the Latin of juridical protocol but also deliberate falsification of some of her answers in such a way as to justify her condemnation (this was revealed at the retrial twenty-five years after her death). Yet these many layers of official distance separating us from what Joan said are just an aftereffect of the one big original distance that separates Joan herself from her sentences.” -AC

“….when he invokes the language of the gods Homer usually tells you the mortal translation too. Here he does not. He wants this word to fall silent. Here are four letters of the alphabet, you can pronounce them but you cannot define, possess, or make use of them.” -AC

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