I've been thinking lately about violence in relation to language. Not the mere description of violent acts, but rather the violation (or intentional wrenching, distorting, distending) of linguistic norms and procedures--be they syntactical, grammatical, typographical--through which an internalized bodily vulnerability or fragility may emerge. I got to thinking of this relation between violence and art because recently I found an old notebook kept during my infatuation with the painter Francis Bacon. Here are a few Bacon quotes I re-discovered that may give you some sense of what I mean:
"I think of myself as a kind of pulverizing machine into which everything I look at and feel is fed."
"If you're in love you can't break down the barriers of the skin."
"In a painting that's even worth looking at, the image must be twisted if it is to make a renewed assault on the nervous system."
"If I go to a butcher's shop I always think it's surprising that I wasn't there instead of the animal."
Also mingled throughout the notebook are a few passages lifted from Vendler's The Breaking of Style and, in particular, the chapter on Hopkins, wherein she suggests "[Hopkins] succeeded in breaking up, by a kind of creative violence, an outworn convention. He led poetry forward by taking it back to its primal linguistic origins."
Taking up the peculiarities of Hopkins' poetic rythems, Vendler continues: "One could say that the spondees represent the impression of a poet who receives the stimuli of daily life as a series of unforseeable and unsettling assaults. The regular measures of ordinary verse simply did not seem to Hopkins to represent the felt texture of his experience, which was counter, original, spare, strange." In this sense, Hopkins' poetry becomes a mimetic reaction to "a universe of continual irregular shocks in which the normal expectable motions of physical law--from peacable alterations of day and night to reassuringly identical repetitions of iambs--have been replaced by an unpredictable series of unforseen impulses."
It's this last quote that gets me--"irregular shocks" and "peacable alterations." I think of these things in relation to Cystic Fibrosis, which itself is "an unpredictable series of unforseen impulses," and which brings me back to this same aesthetic quetion: Can a body so aware of itself and its physical defects harness the intensities of sound and sound textures in order to convey the physical abruptness of its own violent processes? Or is it always just an approximation, something there merely on the surface?