Sunday, October 18, 2015

Language become gesture

From Colm Toíbín, On Elizabeth Bishop:
In certain societies, including rural Nova Scotia where Bishop spent much of her childhood, and in the southeast of Ireland where I am from, language was also a way to restrain experience, take it down to a level where it might stay. Language was neither ornament nor exaltation; it was firm and austere in its purpose. Our time on the earth did not give us cause or need to say anything more than was necessary; language was thus a form of calm, modest knowledge or maybe even evasion. The poetry and the novels and stories written in the light of this knowledge or this evasion, or in their shadow, had to be led by clarity, by precise description, by briskness of feeling, by no open displays of anything, least of all easy feeling; the tone implied an acceptance of what was known. The music or the power was in what was often left out. The smallest word, or the holding of breath, could have a fierce stony power.

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