September 09, 2007

Carter Ratcliff's Arrivederci Modernismo. From the note at the end:

Until I was five, I lived on a street with tall elm trees. One spring, I noticed that the tips of their branches were covered with velvety, purplish flowers. It occurred to me that these odd-looking blossoms were in some way a language. I didn't think they were making remarks, saying things that could have been translated into English. Rather, they were conveying something about themselves, something more than their startling appearance. This wasn't about form and color. It was more about meaning. To anyone who was paying attention, the elm blossoms were saying what they were, what it was like to be them. Or so I felt. I already understood that people and animals do that with the way they look. Now, I realized, plants do it too. Making themselves visible, they made themselves known. They let me know how it feels to be whatever they happened to be. When I was much older I realized that a concept can do the same. Concepts, too, have feelings.

And then... I wanted to address something major: modernism, which was wracked in those days by all sorts of unmanageable feelings. Brainy and gorgeous, modernism was difficult to ignore but impossible to live with. That is why my poem on the subject had to be a poem of farewell.

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