Wednesday, November 23, 2005

today's story

Reason came forward to lecture the lovers;

Like a bandit in ambush he lay.

But he saw that their heads had no room for reason,

So bowed at their feet and went on his way.

#367: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search word: reason

I have, of late, been struggling with this issue of reason. I have been engaging with a man who insists that reason be upheld and reasoning provided for every assertion. When I thought I provided reasoning, he ignored it. It wasn't the kind of reasoning he could accept. His is the dry, unemotional reasoning of the strict and prim school teacher. His whole soul is irremedially starched stiff.

There is no doubt in my own mind that this kind of man is a modern-day Shahryar who needs a corresponding Shahrazad. He probably finds her every day in the wonderful tales that modern poets tell. Those tales are spread throughout any culture: they appear in favourite recipes, they appear on the news from around the world, they appear in the grand dramas on stage and on screen and even in the mini dramas inside advertisements. They appear on the catwalk, they appear at the zoo, they come up in dreams, they're forever 'bout "you".

I also get the feeling that this sour and grumpy Shahryar is there, always there, to prompt the next story to be told to keep Shahrazad alive. Perhaps this is the sense in which reason bows at the feet of lovers. He might go on his way, for a spell, but he will return to ask for another story.


At Thursday, 24 November, 2005, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

I think I see this dynamic on the poetry critique boards. Poets offer up their words, and the critics nitpick. Some are more or less perceptive and constructive. I haven't participated in them much for the past few months, because I find it somewhat stultifying.

I just found an old book called What is a Poet? which touches on the difference the editor perceives between critics and reviewers: that reviewers rate works according to their own taste, and that critics use more objective criteria for assessing literary merit. The book claims there is a blurring between these two types, which is not particularly good. I think sometimes reviewers posing as critics apply their template of taste on something and make pronouncements as to its worth instead of taking the work on its own terms.

Well, that's a huge area for discussion, and it'll probably never be resolved, so I tend not to participate in it much, but just keep on reading and writing.

At Thursday, 24 November, 2005, Blogger Arizona said...

That's a surprising connection between appraisals of art and this Shahryar tendency to lust for more. I wonder if it's not a disappointment that the poet is not delivering some ultimate answer, an answer that may not, in fact, be there.

I read Rumi in faith. Faith that he is talking sense. He rarely talks sense at the outset so I must move past my initial doubts. I think this forces me to move past the limitations of ordinary reason or common sense.

Perhaps all poetry, no matter how inept, tries to facilitate that movement and the nitpickers are those who lack the courage to keep going.

If so, then it would take quite a special sensitivity and quite a lot of experience to tell when a poet has succeeded or failed.

Just reading and writing poetry seems a good way to hone the first and acquire the second.


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