Saturday, August 22, 2009

Vita Nova

Gl├╝ck introduces, in a proem of sorts, the theme of transformation that haunts the poems of her collection, published in 1999 (after Meadowlands). In the proem, she writes:

The master said You must write what you see.

But what I see does not move me.

The master answered Change what you see.

I think of Borges, and his essay on blindness: "A writer, or any man, must believe that whatever happens to him is an instrument; everything has been given for an end. This is even stronger in the case of the artist. Everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments, misfortunes, all has been given like clay, like material for one's art. One must accept it. For this reason I speak in a poem of the ancient food of the heroes: humiliation, unhappiness, discord. Those things are given to us to transform, so that we may make from the miserable circumstances of our lives things that are eternal, or aspire to be so.

If a blind man thinks this way, he is saved. Blindness is a gift." (Translated by Eliot Weinberger)