By Heather McHugh
"When I name poetry a sort of partiality," writes Heather McHugh, "I suggest its economies function by way of powers of intimation: glimmering and flickers, instead of exhaustible sums. it's a damaged language from the start, brimming with non-words: all that white welled as much as preserve the road from surrendering to the margin; all that quiet, to maintain the musics marked." In damaged English, McHugh applies her poetic sensibility and bold serious perception to issues starting from the poetry of Valery and Rilke to historical Greek drama and Yoruba folks songs, delivering extreme, passionate, hugely own readings which are proficient and unified by means of her problem for the relationships between language, tradition, and poetry.
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Additional info for Broken English: Poetry and Partiality
Here we are again:' wrote Valtry, "with the problem: the other vs. the one. That is, the chemical combination "like/unliken . . to which I . . was led by an analysis of language" (11,297). Indeed, all language, were we to register its dramatizing act, stages this play of alien and familiar. It cannot speak of itself without separating from itself. When language tries to contain (or represent) itself, it runs into spatial, temporal, and ontological problems: the problem of itself, for language, is it must treat itself as an other.
You can't get store-bought rags. They take years to perfect. It is a wisdom that turns the meaning of wealth inside-out, and knows how nouveau the material senses of riche can be. " The trail that leads to the shock of "fucks his mother" has proceeded by analogue, sidewindingly innocent (barks worsens into butts, but remains a feature of animal nature; butts worsens into fucks, and suddenly fucks appropriates an object from the realm of the human taboo). Imagine the encounter between missionary niceties and t h ~ slively forthrightness.
The downdriving light boiling over it at every step, bearing on Itself a bright pulsation, which in the blond ran shyly to the back. But suddenly the shade was deep, and nearby eyes lay gazing from a clear new unselfconscious face, which, as in a portrait, lived intensely in the instant things split off again: first there forever, and then not at all. In the poem, as in the Capa diptych, the encounter is phenomenally exact, yet turns about an absence: this image of another figure entering the passage (in both pieces, the passage is of space as well as time) in which an orienting consciousness has paused, is touched with the Blendung.
Broken English: Poetry and Partiality by Heather McHugh