- The function of poetry is to obtain for everybody one kind of success at the limits of the autonomy of the will.
1.2 The abandonment of the autonomy of the will of the speaking person as a speaker constitutes a form of knowledge—poetic knowledge. The knowledge that not “I” speaks but “language speaks” (Heidegger). The function of this knowledge is to rescue the natural will at the point of its death, that is to say, at the point where death arrests its intention.
1.3 Poetry is produced by the mortality of body and soul, the immiscibility of minds, and the postponement of the end of the world.
1.4 The kind of success poetry facilitates is called “immortality.”
3.1 The silence out of which poetic speech comes is more or less busy.
3.2 To bring speech out of silence there must be an occasion generative of speech.
3.3 The “occasion generative of speech” is some dislocation or “disease” of the relationship of a subject and an object (for example, as between lover and beloved or a god and his world). Creation is not the speaking itself but the primordial disease or fall which thrusts me into a predicament in which speech is the only way.
3.4 The poem achieves “closure” only when some new cognitive element has been added to the relationship of subject and object. Terminal closure is “something understood.” Closure brings the poem to an end as apocalypse (“dis-closure”) brings Creation to an end.
Scholium on part and whole: One way of thinking about closure is as the completion of the inventory of part-whole recognitions. A basic moral component in the analysis of the literary work is the discovery of the part in relationship to its whole. The discovery is a moral component because it is in effect an ethical function which carries the literary function—the immortality function—inside of it. It is the business of the reader to discover the compositional harmony of the part of the work in relationship to the whole of the work. It is the business of the moral person—the business of consciousness with itself, the literary work being in this respect a version of consciousness—to discover the ethical implication of this moment of consciousness in relation to the whole career of consciousness; or, stated another way, it is the business of the moral person (for which literary analysis is a model) to discover the relationship of this moment of the story of this person and the whole of the story. Each discriminable element of the work is related to the whole of the work, and the work itself is a discriminable element in the history of its own story (the “archetype” which has not one but many histories, as many as the explanations proposed to account for its coming to be). Analogously, each moment in the history of this consciousness has a place in the whole history of consciousness. But we observe that consciousness is asymmetrical—consciousness includes the past but not the future. We do not remember the future. Hence the part-whole perception in the analysis of the literary work is an anticipation of the mind in contemplation--per impossibile--of the whole career of consciousness as a completed system. In the work of art meaning is complete in a version of being, thus fulfilling by anticipation the state of affairs in immortality—the accord of meaning with being as a whole…. Behind the idea of wholeness of discourse is the organic analogy (see Plato, Phaedrus 264 C), and the organism which is assembled (the whole which is assembled) in analysis is the human countenance. Closure is therefore a form of recognition.
3.5 The speaking subject in the poem is always definable in social terms, that is to say, “is always a person.”
3.6 Loss is the principle of life of the speaking person.
Allen Grossman’s Summa Lyrica pt. 2
4. All poems employ an artificial, that is to say, a “poetic language.” It is characteristic of artificial languages that historical mutability is precluded by their very nature. Artificial languages are devised to exclude or control mutability (Edward Sapir).
4.1 All poetic languages are versions of social language, that is to say, versions of socially identifiable dialects. When I speak of them as “versions” I mean that we encounter them as disguises.
4.2 Poetic languages are strategies to prevent the meaningless use of the human speaker—the engagement of the labor of the speaker toward any stake but his or her own.
13. The person who speaks in lyric is always alone.
13.1 The lyric speaker is overheard in the same way in which the mind of another person is known, that is to say, per impossibile.
13.2 The lyric speaker intends to be overheard conversing with the images of the origins of consciousness who are never present and never reply.
13.3 The other enters the lyric cell only through indirect discourse, though the other is everywhere beyond its boundaries sustaining its form.
13.5 Seriousness is the state of feeling which arises when consciousness, encompassing the circumscription of its own life, becomes centered in itself and becomes heavy with the gravity of its own solitude. Seriousness is a quality of the lyric.
Allen Grossman’s Summa Lyrica pt. 3
14. Immortality (poetic immanence) is the descent of the speaking person into the ground of language as a collective possession.
14.2 Prosodic utterance insofar as it is “numerous” is an imitation of time. Incorporating time, it triumphs over time.
14.3 Having incorporated time, the speech of the lyric person carries time into the pleroma of the human collective. In this sense the speech of the human person in the lyric frame is the incorporation of time by a mind which does not die.
- The lyric is entranced in the first astonishment that it is at all, the awakening of Eve.
16.2 A poem is a fiction of a self seen from within.
16.3 Poems are fictions of the privacy of other minds. Wherever the philosopher says per impossibile the poet shows the way.
16.4 By these fictions of the privacy of other minds it becomes possible to conceive of ourselves as possessing knowable inner being.
19. The silence which precedes speech is the first representational event of the poem. It is the poem’s first artifice.
19.3 The specificity of anything is that by reason of which it is replicable in only one way. The speech of the lyric person is characterized by absolute specificity.
19.4 A poem is a voyage which is the destiny (the specificity) of only one speaker, undertaken and brought to an end with complete finality on only one occasion. Where any code will do, we call the utterance prose. The untranslatability of poetic speech is a non-negotiable aspect of its seriousness.
19.5 One function of the absolute specificity of poetic utterance is to keep out noise, that is to say, all other utterances and especially the most nearly adjacent.
Allen Grossman’s Summa Lyrica pt. 4
21. The didactic of lyric flows from the example of majesty. Lyric is, like all poetry, didactic in nature. But its didactic is not normally the rational didactic of useful sentences, the didactic of prudence. The didactic of lyric is normally the didactic of eidetic exemplification, which is the contradiction of the didactic of prudence. The didactic of lyric teaches the possibility of surviving the labor of manifestation in the one world, the world of manifestational scarcity. In the lyric space of appearance, all being is celebratory. (This is true in the same sense that all representation has about it the quality of celebration.) The speaker of lyric has mastered the process of manifestation, and endured the tragic losses which manifestation entails, without being destroyed. The speaker in lyric has not lost heart. To go on speaking, not to lose heart, is an occasion of celebration and an attribute of majesty.
But majesty also implies the privileges of dominance and the solitude of sovereignty. In the sense in which didacticism promises the transmissibility of usable knowledge, the example of majesty is antididactic, unreal, the origin of order as the king is the origin of order, but not itself the subject of law, as kings were not the subject of law. The didactic of the example of majesty includes the didactic of the counterexample. For the speaker in lyric is also mythic and the function of myth is to repel life, to generate by differentiation. The sentiment of majesty is an occasion of the consciousness of difference. From majesty there goes forth the consciousness of difference by which the natural person is measured and made whole. The encounter with the person in lyric shatters the homogeneity of the encounters of the natural person.
21.1 Majesty is the quality which mastery of contradictory natures (the animal, the citizen, and the god) confers upon the human voice.
21.3 When the voice across time is attended to, the human image is remembered. In the didactic of lyric there are no teachers; there are only rememberers.
Allen Grossman’s Summa Lyrica pt. 5
- Poetic knowledge is intuitive (irrevocably personal) knowledge of the origin of the self. Being knowledge it is nonidentical with that origin; but, rather, it is a keeping of the self through bespeaking origin. As incarnation and history are stays against apocalypse. The life of the poem is assurance against the end of the world, the opening out of all secrets.
8.6 The person in the poem begins to speak by addressing the origin of his or her being as a speaker. She says, “O Muse….” This beginning is always an answering back, responding to an initial annunciation. The biblical type of the poem is the Magnificat (Luke I:46-55). The poet knows the muse because the muse has disclosed herself. The origin of the being of the poet as speaker may be as in the Hellenic case the origin of speech as medium (the scribal deity) or as in the Hebraic case the origin of reality as a whole (Milton’s Uranian muse, the Bible’s God who created by speaking). In either case, the poem is spoken to the muse and not by the muse. The muse is the principle of orientation (the sacred source) by which humanity becomes a speaker. The poem is what is said.
8.7 The poem is another self with which it is possible to take liberties.
Allen Grossman’s Summa Lyrica pt. 6
“I” In Lyric
24. The lyric moves from least differentiation of the self (the opening) toward most differentiation of the self (at the close), from the dark embrace before the lark to the full day of cognitive self-recognition.
24.1 The “I” in the poem (Janus-like) looks back toward an undifferentiated selfhood which it prevents and has not wholly forgotten, and forward toward a differentiated selfhood which it enables and has not wholly acknowledged.
24.5 Looking at the poem, we cannot take it all in.
24.6 A strangeness in the poem (and one fence against meaningless uses of the person) is the peculiar access of the speaking person in poems to the oblivion of prior states of the self. Luminosity flows from hiddenness. Speaking in general is a case of the recollection of past lives. In lyric the speaking person obtains his or her nature by reference to the verbal conduct of all persons who speak in poems. They are not quite themselves, and not quite sighted with respect to a present. Their “kind,” which is not nature but the class of artifice to which they belong, speaks through them; but it is ignorant of all but the general case of their state of affairs. The recollection of past lives is the master privilege of the enlightened in all cultures; it portends immortality by totalizing the otherwise individual life. But it takes away something of the alertness of the waking self, the quick-eyed person who greets the comer in the middle distance. There is in this sense an ignorance about the person in poems which must be attended to. From this ignorance flows a sort of light.
Allen Grossman’s Summa Lyrica pt. 7
28. The speaking person in the poem is implicated in the primordial crime. If incest is prohibited because the human species requires that the human individual abandon its primordial impulse toward autonomy (the incest prohibition), then the lyric person, as self-recapitulatory, is the primordial criminal.
The paradox of sociability lies in the fact that the marriage of the self with the origin of utterance, with originality, is a precondition of self-identification as a speaker. But this process portends an autonomy, a self-createdness, which renders equivocal the relation of the speaker with the social other. On the other hand, an exclusive “giving over” of the self to the social other compromises the relation of the self as speaker to the source of the speaking competence. The lyric speaker seems always to be a version of the self in the process of withdrawing from objective social relations toward the defilement of the marriage with origins. The redemptive possibility in the lyric process is the meeting of all persons in the subliminal “I” where all origins are one origin. The achievement of that state of sociability in which interhuman acknowledgement is adequate to human need extinguishes lyric by putting an end to the trouble which gives rise to lyric. This is the u-topos, the utopia. The defiled character of the original speaker is reflected in the Jewish idea that the central text (the text which has touched origin) “defiles the hand.”
28.1 Lyric individuation implies a recapitulation of the self from the point of view of origins which portends an autonomy that is antisocial in the largest sense. The seriousness of the lyric person is incestuous. The abhorrence which is a feature of the response to the lyric person (and to poetry in general) arises from the spectacle of a face which has looked upon the body of the mother.
28.2 Speaking across time and bearing the marks of unforgivable knowledge the question must arise, “How has the lyric person survived?” The “divinity” of the poem (and by Romantic metonymy of the poet in history) is the quality that adheres to the criminal who has survived the retribution of the gods.
28.4 The abhorrent seriousness of the lyric person constitutes an intolerable privilege. In the lyric, privilege has been withdrawn from the hero, the aristocrat, the god, or it has not yet been conferred. For that reason it constantly propels the person represented toward a scale of being incompatible with human life. The lyric person has always in some sense refused the sacrifice of the first fruits.
Allen Grossman’s Summa Lyrica pt. 8
43. The Orphic machine is the poem: a severed head with face turned away that sings. Each poem is a reinvention of the speech source, because each poem establishes again, and is also identical with, the fictional “I” (the severed head) which is the machine that has speech as its product.
The Orphic machine is the source of the fictional presence, by contrast to the natural presence. The counternatural status of the fictional presence determines that the fictional voice will be postcatastrophic—will repeat the postcatastrophic nature of perception itself—as the “goary visage” of Orpheus sings the history of its fictional enablement, the “organic” disorder on which the order of song is founded. The icons which stand as speech sources and function as Orphic machines are fragments of primordial chaos from which voice emerged as voice alone (Deut 4:12). Only if voice is voice alone (kol zoulati) can the inference of the person (the whole man) arise and the countenance be formed.
The visible person is the idol of “man” because it can never be perceived whole; but the inferential person (the fictional person) is only knowable as a whole. The paradox that the person is only knowable by inference because the whole is only knowable through the defeat of the natural presented thing is of the same sort as the constitutive rules of poetic construction in general. Cf. Crane’s line: “Or they may start some white machine that sings.”