Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Four Landscapes by Jerome Rothenberg

Each of Jerome Rothenberg's Four Landscapes on PFS Post suggests a different way in which a landscape and the lives within it may be viewed as one travels through "on a train".

In the first, descriptive lines alternate with statements that destroy, contradict, or interrogate them. It's not quite Adorno or Hegel but something beyond between them. Figures crossing a bridge are revealed to (possibly) be more than just picturesque figures witnessed but, rather, being for whom this might be a daily or weekly journey. The everyday occurrence of crossing the street is made strange. What bells mark changes because everyone who hears them will have a different take. An arm is closed with another arm. This shifting resembles the way one's perception of a landscape shifts as one travels through it. The framing created by the full end stops resembles the frame of the train's window which creates the possibility of perceiving a series of connected, static scenes cut-off from the world like camera shots.

In the second landscape, the speaker picks out various details and moments. Their eyes dart from sky to hand to house. Any total picture must be put together in their mind after this sense data has been gathered, just as the reader must use these short, full end-stopped lines to put together a whole poem and a whole image (if they wish to do so).

The third focuses in on one detail, then moves to another one, related but still cut off by a full stop. The last line, more abstract, represents a return in thought to the original detail.

The fourth landscape moves in a similar way, only two related details follow the one focused upon. Moreover, the stampeding horses and the fire are the sorts of things that distract, that dramatically grasp at one's attention, so the overall effect is less tranquil and contemplative.

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