Statement of Philosophy

A site for exploration and discussion about verse, poetics, the aesthetic, and creative writing in general.

Because there is a profound difference between writing something to be read and writing something worth reading; and in that difference might beauty be found.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

"Metzengerstein" by Edgar Allen Poe

Story found here


it takes two to tango


A quick post on something I caught last night while chilling with Poe. It is from a short story, yes, but the event applies across literature. The moment lies in this sentence:

Stupified with terror, the young nobleman tottered to the door.

Compare it to this construction:

Terrified, the young nobleman tottered to the door.

The difference between the two is that in the latter, the idea of terror is merely stated, while in the former, the idea of terror is given energy through effect. It may seem a very simple thing but it is actually an example of something central to literature: a direct statement is energically dead without a second idea with which to interact.

That said, we need to add one more construction:

Terrified, stupified, the young nobleman tottered to the door.

Is the "with" relationship necessary? I would say not necessary to the end of coupling the two ideas, but definitely to greater success. It is not that you are giving the reader guidance as to how to couple the ideas. You are, for sure. But what makes it better is that you creating a structure out of the two words rather than merely dropping them onto the page, leaving them there for the reader to find something with which to do with them.


Which, now that I write it, is a curious thing. I have been thinking recently about the difference between William S. Burroughs's cut-up, Nova Express Trilogy and works such as Lyn Heijinian's My Life, asking myself why I find the former so interesting and the latter so banal. And I am wondering if it has to do with that even though Burrough's cut-up is fragmented to the nth degree, books written with the intent of creating "novel[s] presented through a series of oblique references," there is still, within the texts as a whole, relationships being generated between the elements. But in My Life, the ideas presented are more like a jumbled, disorganized list.

I have been planning on rereading My Life (again), having recently reread Burroughs and large parts of Williams's Paterson (which is related, though it may not be clear why). Now I have an hypothesis to carry in to the book. I will let you know what I find.

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