Praise from the 'Li, splendor in praise' side of the literary Fili poet's tongue, for Jorie Graham's latest poem, Exchange, in Poetry, October 2017.
A stream of Voice from one of the most intellectually regarded and prominent female poets writing in America today. Up there with Rita Dove, Jane Hirshfield, Sarah Kay, Mary Oliver, Kay Ryan, Tracey K Smith, and Natasha Trethewey.
The Beckettian voice addressing a mysterious You flowing from the mouth in our secular love poets' glossolalia, vocalizing speech-like syllables lacking any readily comprehended meaning, when spoken, sound, perhaps, something below the surface that is deeply profound.
Graham's prayer from and to Self questions and investigates, 'Prosecute(s), sentence(s)' in an imaginative roller-coaster ride of highly balanced energies performing on the page at top torque, swinging from the bottom to the crest of speech recounting in the opaque bérla filidh, 'language of the poets' that s/he the gender neutral individual poet's mind reserves for communicating with other poets.
It is one of the five Divisions of Gaelic, what was called on the twelve year poet curriculum of yore, the Selected/Chosen language - berla tobaidhi - literally 'the cut out language' as cut out from trees; that a poet was required to have attained a beginning proficiency in by the seventh year of their twelve year curriculum in Ireland during the 1000 year heyday of the poetry schools on which Irish literature is founded.
The five Divisions of the Selected language (Gaelic) being, of course, as any Irish poet will happily tell you from their life-long study of the Precepts of Poetry, Handbook of the Learned, Auraicept na n-Éces: (1) Bearla na Feine, the prose language or dialect of fenechas law, a high level legal language of the educated, that the laws were preserved in and which was used by Brehon lawyers and Filidh poets for official business like law, ritual and ceremony.
(2) Bearla an Eaderscartha, Ogham, the language of separation between the vowels, the separative language or dialect; The Language Parted among the trees. This is a language that is considered a natural language, yet it also was used for encryption and for memory lists.
(3) Iarmberla, the abstractive/additional Iron language or dialect and "a term used by classical grammarians for unstressed words in classical poetry, i.e. the words which do not alliterate or rhyme but are crucial for sense (prepositions, definite article, conjunctions etc.). All the underlined words below in the first verse of you poem are said to be iairmbéarladha.
1 Mór ar bfearg riot, a rí Saxan,
a sé a dhamhna,
do-raduis, ger mhór a meanma,
brón for Bhanbha.
(4) Gnaithbhearla, the customary colloquial language and dialect of a then illiterate majority.
(5) Bearla Filidh - 'language of the poets' - was known to be the most ancient of the five divisions, languages and dialects of spoken and literary Gaelic. The Secret Language of the Poets, that a Medieval gloss on a 7C text states 'sometimes known as "Dark Speech" because it obscures meaning through the use of kennings and metaphors. The Poets used this language to converse among themselves, in tests and initiations, in producing chants, invocations and satires, especially when they wanted to reserve their meanings to the learned only.'
A 14C Brehon historian lawyer and poet, Giolla na Naomh O hUidhrin, died 1420; in a poem addressing his pupils on bearla filidh in a twenty-five rann/stanza poem composed around 1300, 'Take my advice, gentle gentleman', put into modern Irish by Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha as: ‘An address to a student of Law’, in Sages, Saints and Storytellers (Celtic studies in honour of Prof. James Carney, Maynooth, 1989), 159-77:
'The literary language whose thrust is not self-evident or superficial, and the noble reading aloud—for ardent judges and bards, they are the keys which release locks.'
Ms Graham's prose-poem can be contextualized, should one choose to praise Her, as the ecstatically voiced fortifying personal experience, poetic prayer, and reminder to self by this marvelously heard, read and experienced poet that s/he must keep the faith in what traditionally in courtly love poetry on which contemporary American poetry and the highly educated professors of it is founded, and are found, is, of course, Her.
Him also. You the muse without and within, the double-self's interior living force whirling round within, silent unknowable consciousness of our human spirit here caught in its more accurate fragmentary state an eruction of voice mapping closet to thought the mind of our amazingly talented contemporary American poet of the highest and most valuable order.
Or, from the other opposing professionally cynical critical 'Fi, toxic in satire' side of the literary Fili poets' tongue, one could get in a cheap dig by putting forth the contention that far from this being the glossolallia of a modern high American priestess of Columbia's magical native spiritual art, it is the voice of a poet's cold clinically detached analytical professional addressing The Editor of Poetry, Donald Share, in response to his commissioning this poem, perhaps.
Only DS and Jorie Graham can tell us from the horses mouth, and one is friends with neither of these titan poetic heavyweights on social-media. Indeed, The Donald has blocked one of Irish Poetry Blog's most senior social-media colleagues on the most contemporary site for modern American literature, shortly after one began referring to him as The Donald on the said senior social-media colleague's popular global social-media platform interactively commented on and read by the A-B-C-D-E-F and right up to the poetry whirl's Z-listers such as oneself.
An unpublished crank poetic nobody and social-media troll with unpopularity issues responsible for one's mental illness being channeled into unwarranted personal attacks on literary heavyweights that have also blocked oneself on Facepewk for a litany of un-literary high crimes and trash-talk misdemeanors one composed published and paid the ultimate price for as a deeply sensitive lover of one's own muse Her the otherworldly faery woman of Ireland this island that began writing-thru Ms Graham's prose-poem in what a form I at one time believed I had created oneself, Antonymic Write-Thru, where one takes a text and writes the opposite as best one can the meaning of every word in it.
So, with Ms Graham's text that may or may not have been commissioned by The Donald (we can only at present speculate), that begins:
You. You at the door a crumpled thing when I open
surprised. Sing, you hiss. Prosecute, sentence, waving your thin not-arms like dollar
bills, your bewildering moldy skin
AWT, when antonymically written thru becomes .... Me. Me a way in through the window, flawless as you close
poised in silence. I applaud. Defend the Word, motionless my stout legs
moneyless cheques, my knowing certain bone — two and one of me is me,
is me, is me, the Goddess now, fleshy, unbeaten nor bowed down, bigger than ever before, alive She
is living motion and I eloquently fly on Her invisible wings.
Be Warned. Ye gorra 'av a laff.