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Poetry and the Language of Silence – The Marginalian


Saying the Ineffable: Poetry and the Language of Silence

Language shouldn’t be the content material of thought however the vessel into which we pour the ambivalences and contradictions of our considering, afloat on the present of feeling and time. When the vessel turns into too small to carry what we pour into it, language spills into poetry.

On this respect, poetry serves the identical operate as prayer: to offer form and voice to our unstated and sometimes unspeakable hopes, fears, and internal tremblings — the tenderest substance of our lives, to be held between the palms and handed from hand to compassionate hand. Poetry thus turns into an instrument of self-transcendence — an instrument that, in Adrienne Wealthy’s abiding phrases, “can break open locked chambers of risk, restore numbed zones to feeling, recharge want.”

That operate of poetry because the language of the unsaid is what the Canadian poet and Native American tradition scholar Robert Bringhurst explores within the ultimate pages of his altogether fascinating e book The Tree of Which means: Language, Thoughts and Ecology (public library).

Illustration by Maurice Sendak from Open Home for Butterflies by poet Ruth Krauss

A century after William James positioned the ineffable atop his record of the 4 options of transcendence, Bringhurst displays on the variations between English and the native language of the Haida individuals of British Columbia, and writes:

It’s not essential that the identical issues ought to be ineffable in all languages. It is just essential that in every language loads of issues ought to be so: unsayable, or, on the very least, unsaid.

It appears to me {that a} type of speechlessness — the lack to say a fairly vital variety of issues — is definitely constructed into each language. However language itself is a self-transcending mechanism. It tries, and lets us strive, to say what it could possibly’t. The survival of poetry relies on the failure of language. The rationale language exists, it appears to me, is that poetry — the resonance of being — wants it. In case you dwell in a spot that hasn’t been pillaged and ruined, the silence of language’s failure, and of poetry’s success, is current and vivid nearly in all places you hear, nearly in all places you look.

Complement with Muriel Rukeyser on what poetry does for us, David Whyte on the ability of poetry and silence as a portal to presence, and this excellent story of how poetry saves lives, then savor three life-giving poems: “Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower” by Rainer Maria Rilke, “Singularity” by Marie Howe, and “Antidotes to Worry of Dying” by Rebecca Elson.

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