Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gary Barwin on biodiversity

I first saw this post of Gary's as a note on Facebook, to which I responded:

1 3/4 thumbs up to this, Gary. As you know from past chats we've had, I'm all for the spectrum.

Re footnote 2: I would say that an appreciation of a 16th C poem _independent_ of its historical or social context is 100% possible, if not to all encounterers of same, then at least to someone who's read a lot of poetry and has a broad and deep knowledge of the language. Most, if not all, of the words are, after all, parsable--even if orthographically odd-looking--and the person who wrote it, for all his or her paradigmatic and circumstantial differences, is still equipped with, for all intents and purposes, fake hips and codpieces notwithstanding, the same bits as the 21st C reader, including, most importantly, a brain that has physically evolved very little in the intervening eye-blink. Knowledge of context naturally _enriches_ one's understanding and hence appreciation of the old poem, which is why I personally like to read unobtrusively annotated versions of such texts. But I'd emphasize "unobtrusively" here because I prefer to encounter a poem first as something spoken from one person to another, rather than as a curated artefact. Such encounters often provoke my curiosity about the ground in which the poem grew, in the way that tasting a really good wine makes me wonder about the soil conditions and climatological circumstances of the place and time of its vintage. But an oenophile don't need to know these things to savour the vino (a real clever one could reverse engineer them, but that's another matter). Which is one reason I have a hard time buying the oft-heard argument that certain types of art are under-appreciated because we lack the critical vocabulary to discuss them properly. Critical vocabularies, it seems to be, get built of bricks made of man-that-was-awesome and how-the-fuck-did-they-do-that.

No comments: