Friday, October 19, 2012

An occasion of happiness and risk

To my sincere (if scarcely 
competent) delight, I dis-
covered this week the exis-
tence of something to celeb-
rate and seize upon spontan-
eously, letting comprehen-
sion's chips scatter in the
pattern it usually permits.

But even in this devil-may-
care enthusiasm, I hear 
contradiction of myself, 
a very sound reason for not 
blogging in the first person. 
I do happen to believe in 
something of a quixotic joust 
at least, with incomprehen-
sion; and like the knight er-
rant, himself, I tend to look 
backward as well as forward, 
to accede to that peaceable 
state of comparatively impreg-
nable cognition, albeit last-
ing no longer than Mr Warhol's 
ration of fame.

Allow one to vouch, straight
off, for the contrarian but
vastly more prevalent ten-
dency of achieving this sort
of cognitive contentment in
the styles Friday has made,
with such thoughtful timeli-
ness, so irresistible. If,
however, your age is lesser
or greater than that of dis-
cretion, I ask you to imagine
or recall an exhaustion aris-
ing from the most happily 
spirited engagement, suffused 
with the most agreable shock.
It is Friday.

The most wonderful and beautiful
virtue of Friday has always been
that of poetry; and the muse has
far from subtly conscripted us to
frame ourselves in the promises
of the day in her terms. Now, it
develops that a translator of the
page's supreme supports in poetry,
Horace and Virgil, has undertaken
a new volume of his own, under the
auspices of Chicago's estimable

Time and again, this brilliant uni-
versity press has accompanied and
stimulated learning in history, 
painting, and letters; and it has
done so again in a brand new text
which I do regard as an occasion of
happiness and risk. It rises keenly
to the demands of Friday, and espe-
cially for readers who feel them
as a kind of call to experience.

Where did you go to, when you went away?
It is as if you step by step were going
Someplace elsewhere into some range
Of speaking, that I had no gift for speaking,
Knowing nothing of the language of that place
To which you went with naked foot at night
Into the wilderness there elsewhere in the bed,
Elsewhere somewhere in the house beyond my seeking.

     I have been so dislanguaged by what happened
     I cannot speak the words that somewhere you
     Maybe were speaking to others where you went.
     Maybe they talk together where they are,
     Restlessly wandering, along the shore,
     Waiting for a way to cross the river.

Mr Ferry, an emeritus professor at 
a place with a pond, Wellesley, 
reminds this reader of how the in-
tensity of Friday's embraces is so 
well distributed between intimacy 
and cognition. Immediately before 
the poem here reproduced, he recalls
his magnificent translation of Virgil's
narrative of Orpheus' loss of Eurydice, 
probably the greatest heartbreak in art.

Then one comes to this contemporary text,
written with mature reflection of a life
in awareness of Orpheus, and instantly it
suits and responds to the virulent dichot-
omies of our instant: the grotesque "polar-
isation" of political parties, not only
here; the alienations in Mr Galassi's glor-
ious poems, cited repeatedly above; in yet
the tendernesses of the blithe and sweet
fellows who made us laugh in the very dark-
est times - Harlan Greene, Peter McGehee,
Joe Keenan, Ethan Mordden, too many to
name by way of limitation - and Mark Doty,
our peer of Cavafy at least, who held us
together by breaking apart for us to see.

The power of what words let us do for each
other is gorgeously sustained in this text.

I take a Friday for its genius
for risk in the exertions of
intimacy. Bang. Superb poetry.

David Ferry

  New Poems and
  That Now Are Wild 
  and Do Not Remember

University of Chicago Press, 2012©

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