To think of the verbal-poetic medium as a river. Whitman's "hum of your valved voice".

To contrast a notion of art as emerging from conceptual abstraction, a sort of Platonic ether, with the idea of the "vernacular" (whether in language or architecture). Poetry emerging from this sort of perennial sound (Edwin Honig wrote somewhere about poetry as something like bees humming, present always and everywhere.) (Honig's name, in German : "honey")

Drab, dehumanized modernist building projects. Poetic productions stemming from abstract notions of language, form & ideology. Or kraftwerk poetry based on a do-it-yourself model - a-historical, detached from the flow of culture and civilizations, re-inventing primitive wheels again and again.

As opposed to an "Acmeist" model of poetry as a distinct, perennial something - an ongoing "conversation" (Pasternak's term) - rooted in shared culture and history, memory (a Dantean vernacular, the volgare illustre). Or Mandelstam's (& Akhmatova's, & Yeats's) sense of it as a gift, stemming from states of exaltation - inspired yet built on labor (Mandelstam proceeding from Pushkin & the Russian tradition).

What I'm trying to describe is close to Eliot's much-maligned concept of tradition - an already-underway, ongoing conversation, which one can join (and even revise) if one is willing to recognize it, and put in the necessary work of absorbing it.

My understanding is that these emphases are normative for European and world poetry : and somewhat distinct from the American (& Futurist) emphasis on flash, immediacy, (post)-modernist abstraction, constructivism, industrial kraft-production.

The "hum of the valved voice" - aiming for clarity and engagement, an intellectual agility for grasping connections. Wallace Stevens, a great technician, tended, in his critical comments, to downplay 20th-century emphases on technique : in favor of this "river-sense" of fluency which I'm trying to get at.

The poetic medium : perennial fluency.

Mississippi River, near Franklin Ave. Bridge,
Minneapolis (photo by Phoebe G.)

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