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Poetry: I read it, write it, teach it, edit it, review it, publish it; Etc.

Friday, January 9, 2009

And then

And then like cloud drift, I touched ground. "Che fai tu, luna silenciosa . . ."

Calvino's second chapter considers "Quickness." As I said, I'm reading slowly. Even cumbersomely-ish. What has stopped me short in this 2nd memo is a generalization about literature that he forms from an ancient legend about a magic ring, a legend that reinvents itself in the mythos and legends of various cultures. He summarizes by saying that "the moment an object appears in a narrative, it is charged with a special force and becomes like the force of a magnetic field . . . We might even say that in a narrative any object is always magic." Maybe only Calvino can make such an assertion, Calvino, Borges, Marquez, but doesn't it grab your attention? Even though he tempers his assertion with "might," he is saying something crazy, something that demands a response. Don't you immediately want to come up with some exception? I might agree that my flying Vespa is magic, but the burning battleship? The war planes? What I like about Calvino's seemingly innocent but totalizing statement is that it forces the imagination to wake up and either embrace or resist the premise. Any object? Always magic? And so we begin to look deeper into a narrative, into our own assumptions, and to move more carefully over each object we encounter. What's at work here? Magic? I think so.

"Dimme, che fai . . .?"


  1. "Quickness" limns escape from time, which as Calvino points out, people [and literature] can do slowly--as you read his essay--or quickly. When I'm feeling reductive, I summarize Six Memos as Calvino's attempt to come to some words with language. Its magic that defines us. We're so much in it, take it for granted that we don't realize how strange it is; one aspect of literature is that it points out this magic, dazzles us out of the everyday way we use language.

    He is so quotable! Also from "Quickness": “Conciseness is only one aspect of the subject I want to deal with, and I will confine myself to telling that I dream of immense cosmologies, sagas, and epics all reduced to the dimension of an epigram. In the even more congested times that await us, literature must aim at the maximum concentration of poetry and thought.”

    Thanks for bringing yourself and Calvino together here, where we can join you. I recall feeling as I'd lost a close friend when I heard the news on NPR many years ago that he'd died.


  2. Great quote, Carolyn. Thanks for putting it here as I felt I was going overboard, which I rather am!