torsdag, april 12, 2007

mer Berry

här kommer mer om och av wendell berry. hade som uppgift att skriva en reflektion om en av hans dikter, här kommer den, tyvärr på engelska.


I know for a while again
the health of self-forgetfulness
looking out at the sky through
a notch in the valley side,
the black woods wintry on
the hills, small clouds at sunset
passing across. And I know
that this is one of the thresholds
between Earth and Heaven.
It is a place in the world,
a place also in the mind,
the mind's most native place,
ancient beyond time's age,
from which even I may step
forth from my self, and be free.

mina tankar:
Hans Urs von Balthasar calls time “the grand school of love”. He goes on to say: “if time is the ground of our existence, then the ground of our existence is love. Time is existence flowing on: love is life that pours itself out”. In the poetry of Wendell Berry we encounter a similar notion of time and love, which to a large extent receives form in his poetics of place. It is precisely in being present at a specific place, in letting time pass, that we can learn to love: "To defend what we love we need a particularizing language, for we love what we particularly know" (Miracle of Life). In his “particularizing language” Berry displays a deeply Christian instinct in that the concrete can, with time, with love, become a living presence of that which is beyond our grasp, the mystery of incarnation. Concern with particularity does not here become mere realism but rather an iconic mediation of the transcendent.

In his fifth Sabbath, 2000 poem Berry gives expression to this sensitivity for place in a meditative observation of nature. In the very first line of the poem the temporal mode of placed meditation becomes clear: “I know for a while again / the health of self-forgetfulness”. The first line includes two temporal qualifications of the nature of this experience. He signals that what he knows is “for a while”, he is aware that all knowing passes. It is not pessimism, but it is also definitely not optimism about the conclusiveness of human experience. He has experienced something like this before: he is knowing “again”. What does he know then? All we know so far is that the nature of the experience is temporally conditioned. But what will become clear is that what Berry is getting at is not just a foregrounding of the emphemerality of all human knowing: it is rather the experience of human existence in time itself that conveys a fundamental truth about the place we inhabit as humans. What Berry knows “again” is “the health of self-forgetfulness.” Living in time requires a constant openhandedness about what we hold to be ours and what we are. All things pass, and the imposition of what the self desires cannot but be repeatedly worn down by the passage of time.

The first object of Berry's perception is the sky. It is important to note that he is not only observing the sky, he localizes himself in a framework and he is therefore signaling a limitation to his view of the vast sky. He is “looking out… through a notch in the valley side”. The observer in this poem is not roaming free on some Romantic heath experiencing formless and sublime longing. No, he is located in a narrow mountain pass, which allows for a certain particular view of the sky. In this place of direct but limited view the “black woods” surround him. For someone familiar with Berry's poetry the presence of trees cannot pass one by as mere props. The arboreal world is rather a frequently recurring image, which contains much of Berry's poetics of place. Trees stand planted in the dark unknown world of the soil, from which they incorporate (Berry probably wouldn't mind applying this anthropomorphic corpus to trees) nutrition that makes their seasonal, temporal beauty and fruitfulness possible. The vision of the sky is not that of a vast empty sky. No, yet again we see change and movement essentially tied to the perception. He sees “small clouds at sunset / passing across.” The clouds are moving across the sky, and as a placed observer, rooted with his brothers the trees, he cannot but accept the vision as it presents itself to him. This walk in the woods is occurring at sunset. The archaic expression “sunset”, one of the last remains of a geocentric cosmology in our language, implies the solid situatedness of the observer: time has passed, the day is over, and the light of day is leaving us. Even in the situation of our new cosmology this image of a sunset expresses the truth of perception in place, with an added awareness of the essential perspectivalism of all observations. The aesthetic fact of a beautiful sunset is only made possible by being situated in a certain particular place. In the rushed pace of jet planes one could conceivably be sufficiently rootless to never experience a single sunset. The line break after “sunset” leaves “passing across” in isolation in the beginning of the next line. Berry isolates this phrase and opens it up to a layered interpretation. The designation of the motion of the clouds as a “passing across” brings to mind other movements of “passing across”, that involve moving “into” rather than only an elevated motion “over” something. This is indeed what Berry turns to in the next line. First we hear a repetition of the poem's first words “I know”. This restating brings to our attention that the central concern of the poem is being exposed. In this place he knows “that this is one of the thresholds / between Earth and Heaven.” The place that the observer inhabits, one that is defined by a particularized rooted view within the movement of time and change is a mediating point between the concrete reality of his life-world and a transcendent reality. It is important to note that he calls it “on of the thresholds”. He does not claim that this is the one and only place, but it is his.

Berry's notion of particularity as a place of revelation and truth is a decidedly anti-Enlightenment move. The dichotomies between “body and soul, self and nature, culture and earth” are subverted by his holistic instincts. But Berry also gives place for the human experience of interiority in the coming lines. The place that he occupies in this poem “is a place in the world, / a place also in the mind, / the mind's most native place…” The threefold repetition of place in these three lines is an insistent placement of the experience of the mind in particularity. It is not so much that the experience of the mind need to be denied as always in essence involving a denial of particularity: place rather allows mind to be fully realized as a fully human faculty, with its distinctive strengths and inherent dangers. In the last lines of the poem Berry returns explicitly to the knowledge he claimed awareness of in the first two lines: “self-forgetfulness.” It is in the particularity of this liminal space “between Earth and Heaven” that a sufficiently solid place is given him to be able to “step / forth from my self, and be free.” The experience of time in a particular place has indeed been for Berry a “grand school of love.”

Inga kommentarer: