Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Poem's Consolation

This process, one word leading to another, qualifying another, is what consoles [Primo] Levi.  For a moment, he is rescued from the narratives of utility that structure every second of his life: the poem's language creates an interior space where for a moment he may hide.  But at the end of the journey, Levi is plummeted back into a world in which utility is all, a world in which words cannot resist themselves because the German, French and Polish words for "cabbages and turnips" refer perfectly and interchangeably to things.  "For a moment I forget who I am and where I am," says Levi, and the phrase is powerful because it acknowledges that a poem's consolation is neither permanent nor complete. - James Longenbach

No comments:

Post a Comment