Tuesday, April 24, 2007



Although I think Fenollosa and I both secretly hope there is an Order to things, I find it difficult to believe that he and I would hope for the same Order. Any successive actions, according to him, are based on the action's natural proclivity to succeed in that order. On a superficial level many actions do appear to have a natural (simple) order. For example, we are born, we live, we die. Fenollosa would call that Order. I, on the other hand, would like to know the exact successive actions that led up to my birth, the organization of every event in my life, and then, how that may relate to my death, and my birth-life-death's effect on Order. I differ in this way from Fenollosa in that I don't feel Order is an organic, invariable thing.

Consider the following quotes from the essay:

"Perhaps we do not always sufficiently consider that thought is successive, not through some accident or weakness of our subjective operations but because the operations of nature are successive."

"One superiority of verbal poetry as an art rests in its getting back to the fundamental reality of time."

"In reading Chinese we do not seem to be juggling mental counters, but to be watching things work out their own fate."

Fenollosa's assumptions rely on linear time, which is not much fun, really. There isn't much room for imagination in a system where you get up, go to work, and go to bed. Some of his ideas are simplified and the reader takes them for granted. When he says, "The truth is that acts are successive, even continuous; one causes or passes into another. And though we may string never so many clauses into a single compound sentence, motion leaks everywhere, like electricity from an exposed wire," he asks the reader to believe what he says as "the truth." I imagine myself shrugging and moving on when I first read it, but there is something now, when I re-read it, that I find unsettling. It's like he wants the reader to only consider a finite number of "acts." If you consider all the acts ever, then Fenollosa's assertion does not carry as much weight.

Pound--I'll get into you later.

1 comment:

K. Silem Mohammad said...

Excellent comments, Bryan. I'm generally in the same camp as you re: linear order and such. If I were going to say anything to defend Fenollosa (and I am), it would be that you could think of his insight as not something that relies purely on a notion of temporal order, but also on spatial dynamics--he thinks interestingly about how poems might enact motion, distance, depth of field (and the dynamics of interaction between these dimensions).