lipstick

Obvious

George Oppen - "From a Phrase of Simone Weil's and Some Words of Hegel's" (0'58"). Oppen had just turned 71 when this recording was made in April of 1979 in Brooklyn. He doubles up on the opening fricative of the word "phrase" in the title, but otherwise his unmistakable voice—the sonic equivalent of an craggy geological formation through which a forceful breeze stirs—delivers this syntactically tricky twenty-line poem, the first in his short 1972 book Seascape: Needle's Eye, without hesitation or hitch. The opening words situate value (jewel, treasure) in a hermetic space of depth and enclosure, but the "no" at audia four renders this cognitive model inoperative and henceforth the poem will credit only those phenomena that are obvious [Lat. ob via, in the way]: the sandspit, the beak, the tune, the flame, the breaking wave ("belly-lovely"). The sonic patterning in audias four and five clusters around the liquid phoneme /l/, first heard at the end of "jewel" before rising to redundancy (sonic and semantic) in the sequence "liquid ... living life's liquid." In audia six the emphasis shifts to /th/: "THis eTHer THis oTHer THis element" ("ether" is likely one of the "words of Hegel's" Oppen had in mind). In audia eleven, the poet pronounces "fire of straws" as a surprising near rhyme to the word "obvious." The diphthong /aI/ in "fire" recurs in "hide" (end of audia eleven), then becomes dominant in "desire...eyes...pride...life" (thirteen), followed by the key line, structured around /m/ and then /l/: "and foreMost of the storM's Multitude Moves the wave beLLy-LoveLy." Truth, if it is, says Oppen, is just beyond "the outer / limit of the ego," a movement across a surface, a wave on the open water, a tune on the wind. Visible, audible, along the way.

More Oppen at PennSound. Author page at EPC. Oppen at Modern American Poetry. Wikipedia entry. For an intelligent discussion of "From a phrase...," see Peter Nicholls's "Modernising Modernism: From Pound to Oppen" (for the hasty reader: circa footnote 60 and following).

Wednesday -- 28 June 2006 -- permalink

The Lipstick of Noise is a product of the Third Factory • Inspired by the music blogs • And by Paul Blackburn's reel-to-reel deck. Intending to make good use of PENNSound and other sources of digital audio files of poetry • Comments welcomeXML.