Monday, May 08, 2006

from Broken English

"The fragment is a form we approach in aftermath (its alternative status, as the product of forethought, is rarer, and sponsors a special set of reflections . . .). The study of fragments is the study of time's effects, and an artifact's endurances. Poets establish what remains, sang Holderlin, himself the poet of the fragmentary, and what remains in time are fragments, traces, debris. Nothing lasts longer than ruins, Brodsky remarked. And time reduces works to patterns of extent and extinction; yields up fortunes of was, not will.

Still, the fact of fragmentation creates the possibility of the fragmentable: and this is the mind's art, the art of apprehension and precaution (for the mind can make time, for a time, seem small).

The writer around whom the rummaging or rubbling of deterioration goes on represents something, rather than representing something to us. For just as the act changes in time, the reader changes in the act (you never read the same book twice). What we mean at the moment we write and what we mean at the moment we are read are both bifold (transitive and in-); so literary meaning starts fourfold and goes from there, split on split. In a charged field, difference makes things spin."

from "Broken, As in English" in Broken English: Poetry and Partiality
by Heather McHugh

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