Monday, October 12, 2009

the OTHER voice ...

“Between revolution and religion, poetry is the other voice. Its voice is other because it is the voice of the passions and of visions. It is other-worldly and this-worldly, of days long gone and of this very day, an antiquity without dates. Heretical and devout, innocent and perverted, limpid and murky, aerial and subterranean, of the hermitage and of the corner bar, within hand’s reach and always beyond. All poets in the moments, long or short, of poetry, if they are really poets, hear the other voice. It is their own, someone else’s, no one else’s, no one’s and everyone’s. Nothing distinguishes a poet from other men and women but those moments – rare yet frequent – in which, being themselves, they are other. The possession of strange forces and powers, the sudden emergence of a store of psychic knowledge buried in the most private depths of their being, or is it a singular ability to associate words, images, sounds, forms? It is not easy to answer such questions. But I do not believe that poetry is simply an ability. And even if it were, from where does it come? In sum, no matter what it may be, what is certain is that the great oddness of the poetic phenomenon suggests an ailment that still awaits a physician’s diagnosis. Ancient medicine – and ancient philosophy too, beginning with Plato – attributed the poetic faculty to a psychic disorder. A mania, in other words, a sacred fury, an enthusiasm, a transport. But mania is only one of the poles of the disorder; the other is absentia, inner emptiness, that ‘melancholy apathy’ that the poet speaks of. Fullness and emptiness, flight and fall, enthusiasm and melancholy: poetry.”

(Octavio Paz, “The Other Voice.” The Other Voice. Trans. Helen Lane. p. 151-152)

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