josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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18 Oct '03 05:56:29 AM

Notes on the ' . . ' punctuation in Williams that I mentioned the other day:

1. This dot thing is most frequently used in the forties to early fifties, in both Paterson and the other poems.

2. It's not used before 1949 or so outside of Paterson, in which it's used right from the start in 1946. [?]

3. In Paterson he's more liberal with the double dots    .   ., whereas they're much rarer in any other poems.

4. They seem to almost always come at the ends of stanzas, sentences, or substantial fragments - grammatically whole phrases. When they don't it's often because they separate items in something like a list.

5. It's almost always a single dot, then sometimes double dot, and in book IV of Paterson he starts using a handful of dots spaced all the way across the page as some sort of vertical separator.

6. The spacing of the dots from each other, and from the text, varies - whether 'freely' or 'arbitrarily' or what, I don't know.

7. Outside of these occurrences, at least in the collected poems, his ellipses seem to almost always be not typographically unique characters, but wider, formed from three periods evenly spaced - although I think maybe some ellipses are spaced an en dash distance apart and some are spaced an em dash distance.

8. I don't think MacGowan says anything about this, or really punctuation at all, except to say that changes not of 'critical significance' to punctuation are not mentioned at all in his notes in the appendices. Since there is some of this strange punctuation as per above, though, I suppose MacGowan didn't go crazy 'correcting' it elsewhere. [?]

9. I've never read any of his prose that's not in 'Spring and All' or 'The Descent of Winter' so I don't know if anything like this happens in 'Kora in Hell', or (ha) his essays, etc., but I doubt it.

My poet-professor Keith also had this to say:

Re Williams, I found that Vivienne Koch's William Carlos Williams (New Directions, 1950) says this in the section The Poems: "As for punctuation, it is not for the hell of it, as Mr. Symons suggests, that Williams has put a period after "cheese." It is because the thought and feeling alters at that point and with the following line "Man" we get an intensification and personalization of the general theme suggested by the opening lines down to "cheese." It is a definite contribution of Williams that he has recognized so painstakingly the importance of punctuation and typography to poetry. What e.e. cummings and others have also attempted in a more literal and (often) eccentric fashion, Williams has stabilized into a reliable and integral element in his technique."

"The importance of the visual structure of poetry is not a trivial notion. So conscientiously does Williams take the matter pf punctuation that, comparing the 1934 Objectivist Press edition of the Collected Poems with earlier versions, one finds emendations in which commas, periods, spacing, capitals, etc. have been patiently juggled with increasing sharpness of impact as end products. Titles too......"

16 Oct '03 05:16:14 AM

'Anyone who despises himself will still respect himself as a despiser.'

15 Oct '03 07:30:08 AM

I found myself, the last time I was writing a bit of a paper I've been agonizing over, using the word 'constellation' to talk about a group of concepts, so with vaguely aspirational hopes (ooh, I might be saying something even smarter than I thought, etc.), thinking of Adorno's 'constellational' epistemology, I turned to 'Constellation' in Negative Dialectics, thinking to quote it. You will note that I am not quoting it here. Things did not turn out as hoped. Maybe someday. In the meantime I am just writing 'vividly', ha. Please shoot me.

15 Oct '03 07:01:48 AM

'Your English
is not specific enough
As a writer of poems
you show yourself to be inept not to say

15 Oct '03 05:57:10 AM

You have no idea (well, probably a pretty good idea) how pleased I am that:

1. William Carlos Williams wrote a poem called 'To a Lovely Old Bitch'.

2. The poem is addressed to Sappho.

14 Oct '03 06:20:52 AM

Which show was the first thing to come to mind today when I wondered what shows have had major characters who were depressed. (I just watched the second season, which makes a pretty determined run at it up to the point where Angel sleeps with Darla, trailing off after.) My second and third guesses were Buffy (after she's brought back) and NYPD Blue (Sipowicz has to have been depressed at some point).

14 Oct '03 06:16:04 AM

What exactly is wrong with people that they come all incredulous like when I say I like to watch Angel?

14 Oct '03 06:13:01 AM

Which song I haven't heard in years and years as far as I know, by the way.

I love memory.

14 Oct '03 06:11:42 AM

The other day I heard something that I thought was the Bangles' cover of 'Hazy Shade of Winter', and even though it wasn't, it was enough to get whatever parts of the song I could remember stuck in my head. I don't actually know if that's the correct title, but I prefer not to look it up. As it continues to stick, I may eventually remember enough of the words, or remember them clearly enough, to feel confident about the title. This is probably something like the little joke in the Investigations in the 'private language' section ('section') about buying multiple copies of the newspaper in order to verify the news (the parallel being, verifying or justifying one's guess at a train departure time by consulting one's mental image of the time table). But I'm not shaken, Wittgenstein. Hearing a song in your head is kind of like singing it aloud - your memory of it can be different when doing it as opposed to just recalling it. Once you start singing, you can keep going. You can remember parts in the middle that you would otherwise be unable to. (I think it works the same way with the train departures too, but there the story is more complicated.)