Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Silence and language

Since repeatedly reference is being made to the lyrical "I", and which seems to be set apart from any other, including philosophically induced identity formations, a critical question touches upon the the tension field of "language and silence". Not meant here is for the moment George Steiner's book with the same title, but fore most another inherent question, namely if the poet can crack the code of a language often hiding the mysteries of life, and, thereby, make it possible, that his poem reveal something which touches human consciousness? The question is not posed abitrarily, but comes up when discussing this matter with a poet like Gabriel Rosenstock who asserts every language has its own unique code, in order to crack the mysteries of the world.

The lyrical "I" may remind of the romantic poets who would next to the jesters recite poems at the court of the king, and therefore provide for a kind of entertainment thought to be a sign of nobleness. Often a poem transformed in a proxy of a song fulfilled this demand for lyrics coming close to music. Rhyme, form and even the gestures which go with it became more than a mere presentation. For the poems had to convey at the same time messages which could not reach otherwise the ear of the king. That form of presentation is long gone, or at least one would think so, but affinities between poetry and power have always found their interlocutor.

Consequently the poem does not reveal the mysteries outright, but they are themselves hidden in what the poem conveys in the form of insinuations full of double meanings. That is why the interpretation of poetry is so difficult because unlike philosophy there is framework of references readily available so as to be able to validate the interpretation. Rather the poem tends to float in a space of its own and leave it to the succeeding times for the mysteries to unravel.

One of the most interesting aspects of this is to compare oracles which guided from Delphi the Greeks in their decision making policies, including the Athenians who sought for council as to what they should do in light of a pending attack by the Persians. No oracle was ever free of paradoxical formulations so that the recipient had to find a suitable interpretation. Likewise poetry does not commit itself to an outright position, but leaves finally the question about the mysteries of life subject to own answers while making sure the same question underscores the continuity of poetry in its incomplete, uncomplete form.

Katerina Anghelaki Rooke would philosophise about this and conclude restless human beings that we are, why is the sense and purpose of life negated so much, if only to give money to have a saying over everything, and she means absolute everything as to her money has become the new God. Anything made into an absolute will silence so many other things, and especially if you are not a believer in an oneness or unity, but in letting opposites co-exist without coercing them into being under one roof together, this shall be the case poets will have to deal with.

Since silence can evoke both negative and positive connotations, clarification of the term needs to be made. That silence is not only negative, was revealed by dock workers in the port of Genoa. They were listening in silence to one worker strumming on his guitar and who sang only incomplete songs. The rest of the song was filled by their silence, and gave tremendous strength and meaning as to what was being song even though left incomplete and uncomplete. That double sense of completeness played a role in the aesthetical considerations of Michel Angelo. He knew the stone he was about to use for a sculpture was more complete than whatever he could shape out of stone. Significantly enough Michel Angelo called his work as never being finished, but was instead both incomplete and uncomplete. The rest was wrapped in silence. Thus a positive meaning of silence is to create an economy of meaning when using words to say something. That does not mean "to say more with less", for the tension field between what is being said, and what is left unsaid, has to be taken into consideration as well, in order to grasp the incomplete and uncomplete meaning of what we intend to say.

Here the poetess Katerina Anghelaki Rooke begins to describe in one of her philosophical poems what it means to leave silence be undisturbed, for only then the sounds of the soul can be heard. Since soul is in dispute as if it never exists, as many philosophers would claim, righty so the poets seeks to refute such a philosophical premise as well in one poetic stroke. Of interest is that Katerina Anghelaki Rooke expresses instead another prime premises, when she writes that "striking clashes are forbidden." Non violence means here indirectly that not all means are allowed before an audible word is born out of silence.


The Transcription of a Nightmare


For a nightmare to become a poem

The silence must be undisturbed by creakings

Of the soul, the heart or other organs

Of the inorganic chemistry of existence.

The silence may be occupied by colors

But striking clashes are forbidden:

Black with rose

Or with the much-sung blue of eyes.

Perhaps a bit of earthy brown

The bronze of a withered leaf

Or white with brownish spots from a dog's neck.

Once the night mare has reached its full height

It must undergo a series of operations.

With great dexterity every trace

Of reasonable doubt must be removed

And then without anesthesia

Something of inborn human kindness

Must be transplanted there.

The most difficult surgery

Is to cut it away from fear.

This you achieve by immersing

The bad dream unremittingly

In the holiness of nature.

And then the poem springs up;

Leave by tiny leaf

Blossom by blossom

Quite frail at first, trembling

It rises from the black earth that nourished it

And dares.

It dares to dream

The antidote of agony

The Word.


Katerina Anghelaki Rooke

(Taken from the book ‘The scattered papers of Penelope’, London: Anvil Press Poetry, 2008)

Likewise the poet has to strive to link silence and language, and seek to enrich through his or her personal language not only his own unique, but the common human language. Marx said here this is achieved once the categories of productivity and creativity are brought together in language, for only the human self consciousness can be truly addressed. That differs greatly when a command language of the Nazis silences his mother, as described by Peter Weiss in "Aesthetics of Resistance". At the end of that period, George Steiner posed in his book "Silence and Language" the crucial question if artistic reflections can stop crimes against humanity, for he saw the paradox that a man could play on the piano Schubert songs the evening before he went the next day into the concentration camp to kill more people.

Consequently Michel Foucault urged in 'L'histoire de la folie / history of insanity' “places of silence need to be discovered before the lyrical protest covers them up.”

To return to Foucault's statement, silence needs to be overcome but how? Foucault tried to overcome the separation between reason and insanity. He would claim even someone stuttering may be closer to the truth than someone holding a smooth speech due to being skilled in rhetoric. But Foucault recognized as well the asymmetry prevails in society, insofar as the father would not talk with his son once considered to have gone astray, but delegate him to the psychiatrist, the representative of reason in society. That alone entails a lot of pain in between the generations once children realize that they cannot really talk with their parents. A solution may be to experience at home an openness so that all problems can be put on the table without fear of admonishment or even far worse some kind of punishment. The main problem seems to be that younger generations need to overcome the dogmatic truths upheld by the

parents without themselves giving up out of despair a commitment to life. Parents want their children to continue life. Sartre considered this to be the only reasonable demand parents can make of their children. They cannot intervene on how they will do it. So overcoming silence has to do with openness, the freedom to let go and to be open to doubt. More crucial is as well that parents are ready to admit their mistakes and show that they have not succumbed completely to what the youth finds being the worst, namely attempts to corrupt their minds already at an early age so that they do not really pose a threat to the established order of things.

Is there a difference between the poet and the philosopher, especially when the latter tend to become more and more psychoanalytic orientated like Cornelius Castoriadis, Lacan but also R.D. Laing? Foucault himself describes in “History of Insanity” how the age of reason meant to stigmatize anything which did not accept reason as being sick, and therefore to be imprisoned in silence.

Can silence be overcome by means of dialogue based on empathy and imagination? It requires what is called in German “die Kunst des Hervorholens” - the art of drawing out a person by posing good questions. Such an art would mean to extend the criticism of 'inter cultural dialogue' and of 'cultural diversity', so that the human voice can be heard and the language used capable of addressing human self consciousness despite circumstances which can reduce the human being to being made silent by lack of money and threats of violence. By being true to the self, it means betrayal of the self can be avoided with the solicit support of critics and others who wish truly to listen to what poetry has to say. What moves and therefore does not stand still can move on by being moved.

Likewise poetry can be most powerful once a certainty in a world of uncertainty. All know how easy it is to incur a misstep which can derail the entire search for some truth. At the same time, it should not be overlooked, that many poems have remained incomplete, hence remained voiceless, because the poem written on a scrap of paper has been left in a drawer only to be forgotten there. Norb Blei, an amazing poet and supporter of poets, published once a book called "Other voices", and added that it is important to fetch poets before they disappear. Likewise the world wide movement "women scream" focuses especially on bringing out women who have been silenced by domestic violence or even by cancer. It is so important that they find their voice and come out in public where they can receive support from other women with similar experiences. Jael Uribe is here the leading spirit. (see Woman' Scream http://womanscream.blogspot.com
http://facebook.com/womenpoetsinternational )

The poet Dileep Jhaveri has written The poem "Silence" which can be read as an analogy to a suicide bomber preparing in silence his deadly action as again the case in Brussels March 22, 2016. Naturally the poet had something else in mind, but what matters to Dileep Jhaveri is that a poem overcomes silence by taking on the form of 'oneness'. That shall be shown where in the final line everything flows together. Dileep Jhaveri's poem “silence” ends with: "Death had created warehouses of silence in every tiny village to the most distant stars"

Naturally this can be a tragic end when taken to mean the same as what Greek Tragedies wishes to convey before it is too late, and the mistake made not to listen any longer to the advise of the chorus which has the collective wisdom to anticipate what shall come next.

Silence can be created alone by threat of death, that is if not willing to go conform with the current rule of law? Antigone is significant insofar the tragedy goes to show what punishment shall follow for not obeying the law. Antigone ended up being walled in a cave where she could not die but also not live. This in-between is reflected in what signifies the relationship between 'dust' and 'thinking'. An honorable burial would mean the body shall be covered by the earth. Hoelderlin was attracted to the terminology of 'dust', but he did not find the right interpretation according to Klaus Heinrich. For dust of the earth differs from what dust is gathered over time. In the latter case, children can write with their fingers in the dust which has settled on old furniture once they open up long forgotten rooms used by their ancestors.

Why does Foucault give so much importance to 'places of silence'? Topos, a Greek word as used in "topology", designates as a concept a special location which takes space. Always poets and philosophers have been like those searching for water sources with wishing rods, location where the mind suddenly opens up to let in the outside world. Such a location makes possible a dialogue between the inner and outer world. Especially in childhood days when sense impressions are the strongest, the immediate surrounding impregnates upon the mind and becomes an unforgettable location. Memory thereof is connected especially through smell and sound.

In Ancient Greece, it was no accident or coincidence where temples were built. Preceding them was already the use of hill tops where fires were lit to send messages. Thanks to that Mycenae knew three days later that Troy had fallen. It suggests a network of communication using light existed already at that time and had a global dimension. An inversion thereof was inside the temple. The Parthenon contained a special room in which Athena sat nearly in the dark beside a pool of water. Only one hole in the roof allowed for light to fall in. It created an aura of magic. Interpretations of worship rites suggest this was an effective way to uphold something like a mystery about the Goddess who was the protector of the city of Athens. Strangely enough Athena appeared in Homer's Odyssey as the angry one who wished to prevent his return to his home, Ithaca.

Alone out of such array at least three different meanings of place can be made out: home, the place of the temple and far away places where historical events like the fall of Troy shape further human destiny. Naturally there are two other places which play a role in mythology and reality. One is Hades, the underworld, while the other is the place of the Gods. The latter can be linked to Olympus where Zeus housed.

There is still one other place which modern literature evokes but which is well known as the place where the first expressions of the arts found their realization, namely the caves. One wonders why Plato stigmatizes in his cave analogy people playing a guessing game about images being projected against the wall. Christa Wolf in “Cassandra” mentions that after Troy fell the women escapes into caves where they scratched their thoughts into the walls since historians would not listen to their voices. Moreover Antigone ends up being walled in a cave so that she cannot live but does not die right away, that is after she refused to recognize the law of the king who did not want to grant her brother a honorable burial. Out of this emerges the theme of 'dust and thought', something Hφlderlin perceived as being of significance.

Indeed poetry may start with writing in dust just as a whisper may start a kind of self conversation when words become tunes turned into songs sang in the morning to express a love for life. All that leads to the question what place in society and history is needed to have one's voice be listened to by the others?

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