Poetry is About Listening

The title of this post is taken from the book “Silence in the Age of Noise” by Erling Kagge.  The book  is written by an explorer and publisher and he spends much of his time in the book talking not about, but around silence.  He seems to be very fond of Martin Heidegger and  Ludwig Wittgenstein.   That may or may not be a good thing.  Image result for silence in the age of noise

While I’m not sure that Kagge’s observations are terribly unique or insightful, there are several moments in the book that provide launching points for introspection.  And maybe that is good enough for a quick pocket-book.  At any rate, it is good enough for me to recommend reading it.

I was very pleased to find an introspection launching point in Kagge’s reference to a Norwegian poet named Jon Fosse.  Here is the full quote (and the inspiration for this brief essay):

“To compose poetry is about listening,” says Jon Fosse,”..not to contrive, it is, so to speak about bringing forth something that already exists – this is why when one reads great poetry, one often gets this I-knew-all-of-this-already-I-just-didn’t-express-it feeling.”  Fosse is influenced by his surroundings in Vestlandet, western Norway.  If you listen, there is something being said to you and that is what you write down.  “Language listens to itself.”  Everything that doesn’t come from within is in a way secondary information, according to my understanding of Jon Fosse.  What comes to you externally has already been told.  That which is vital, which is unique is already within you.

This is an interesting argument regarding the composition of poetry.  Fosse, as presented by Kagge, seems to be indicating a need to be attentive to one’s daily circumstances and experiences as a preparatory step to composing poetry.  To take a thread of Kagge’s book, this is all to suggest one be a silent recipient of events in order to prepare to break that self-imposed silence for communicating something unique.

This seems to suggest a kind of conversation between the poet and the poet’s experience – which is the world.  When the poet composes, the poet is speaking back to what had been received. I am simultaneously brought in mind of a mirror which reflects back the light and image  that have been shone into it and the cesura gaps that Kagge discusses in music.  Those moments of silence between notes.

I appreciate what Fosse is saying but I want to take the process further and suggest that the listening is only a preparatory step in a larger process.  The whole process includes the listening, the reference to what is unique in the person, the exploitation of language and the speaking back.

Indeed, is not this a possible way to describe living life itself?


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