Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ah Yes, Now I Remember

Blogging on the road from Orlando, Florida (yes, the Hurley Family Vacation 2007 was to Disney World, more on that later), I connected to the internet, and saw on my bloglines this lovely post at University Diaries. I spent Bloomsday 2007 in perhaps the most anti-Joycean way possible, but reading this made me long for my bookcase in New York, and my well-worn copy of the book that captured my imagination at the age of 17, and gave the first (albeit short-lived) direction to my hopes for an academic career:

... The phrase and the day and the scene harmonized in a chord. Words. Was it their colours? He allowed them to glow and fade, hue after hue: sunrise gold, the russet and green of apple orchards, azure of waves, the grey-fringed fleece of clouds. No, it was not their colours: it was the poise and balance of the period itself. Did he then love the rhythmic rise and fall of words better than their associations of legend and colour? Or was it that, being as weak of sight as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the prism of a language many-coloured and richly storied than from the contemplation of an inner world of individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic prose?

Yes, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (quotation courtesy of University Diaries, as I'm too lazy to look it up myself). Maybe it's a bit cliche, but at 17, Joyce spoke to me in a way nothing else ever had, not even medieval literature. It's nice to remember, at a point in my career where I've chosen the critical over the creative, a moment when that choice hadn't been made yet, when I first thrilled at the possibility of language, molded and shaped into art. Not to suggest I've lost that intoxication with the power of words. I only write about poetry now -- but re-reading these lines from Joyce make me realize why so many of the colleagues who I am most grateful to have as interlocutors are poets and creative writers, professionally or not. It's a constant reminder that poetry isn't something only in the past -- it's something being continually reborn, like in cummings' Introduction to New Poems (something I really should blog about sometime) --
a remembrance of miracles: they are somebody who can love and who shall be continually reborn,a human being
. And yet so much more than mere remembrance.

More upon my return to North Carolina, including some thoughts about visions of the future inspired by a return visit to EPCOT Center (a bit dark, I'm afraid, though the current post over at In the Middle by Eileen Joy has me rethinking a bit of what I'd initially thought...), and thoughts on finally being done with all the Augustine I'm reading before September.


J J Cohen said...

Nice post, MKH -- and I love the juxtaposition of Joyce with the Mouse!

Before I went to Ireland last year I did a massive reading of Joyce. "Araby" struck the most sonorous chord, for some reason -- it put me back in touch with what it felt like to be 18, to be in a college literature course, to have it finally explained to me how sad the adult world could be. I asked my ten year old son to read just to see what he'd make of it; he was quite moved, but not ready to accept its bleakness.

Now, of course, it seems SO adolescent that I can enjoy it only from a distance. Not so Disney: if I could retire to the faux 1970s Hawaiian fantasy of the Polynesian Resort, I'd be there.

MKH said...

Dubliners and Portrait definitely fulfill that role of books that help me remember "adolescent angst" -- and I love the phrasing you use for how it felt: "to have it finally explained to me how sad the adult world could be." I had a momentary flash of that feeling when I heard, on a Nickel Creek album of all places, a song called "Eveline" -- which the lyrics made clear was a reference to Joyce.

And I heartily second how awesome it would be to retire to the Polynesian. It's still my favorite place from which to watch the fireworks -- and I've yet to stop being amazed by the indoor tropical garden. Though I'd have to say -- retiring to the Old Key West Resort (where my parents usually take us) would be pretty awesome as well -- just the right combination of golf courses and pastel colors.