Tuesday, June 03, 2014

White Spaces; the quietness of the lake at sunset

I have been a fan of the writing of Paul Auster for years. What I didn't know, or remember, is that he began as a poet! I must have known about this by reading Hand to Mouth, his story of his early days trying to earn his bread by writing, but it had escaped my memory box. In 1994, the Overlook Press published (on unpleasant rough, yellowing paper that quite resembles newsprint -- but no matter . . .) his Collected Poems, which includes translations from modernist European poets he admired such as Andre Breton and Tristan Tzara. The poetry writing section of his life came to a definitive end in 1979, when after a year of writing almost nothing, he was inspired by his attendance at a dance performance to begin a work of short paragraphs he called "White Spaces" which he worked on fiercely and completed the night before he was notified of his father's sudden death. His inheritance made it possible for him to go on writing. He turned to fiction and his later successes. But he says he still respects his poetry and it may even be his finest work. I stumbled on this book in the magic jumble sale that is available on Amazon in used book form. And tonight you are being treated to one of the sections from "White Spaces." The whole work occupies about 8 pages. The sections are not numbered or titled, just separated by paragraph breaks.

To say the simplest thing possible.To go no farther than whatever it is I happen to have before me. To begin with this landscape, for example. Or even to note the things that are most near, as if in the tiny world before my eyes I might find an image of the life that exists beyond me, as if in a way I do not fully understand each thing in my life were connected to every other thing, which in turn connected me to the world at large, the endless world that looms up in the mind, as lethal and unknowable as desire itself.

Paul Auster from "White Spaces" in Collected Poems, page 157.

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