Thursday, June 08, 2006

The limitations of words

I read a poet chastising another group of poets for saying that words have limitations, and they were feeling at the limits of what they could say. The chastising poet was responding to a comment that words divide us as much as they join us together.

Ah, but the first person to admit to the limitations of words is the bard who uses words well, and knows from personal experience how much they leave out or cannot say. I run up against that wall continuously, and so there are times when music can express what words cannot.

I recorded an hour of new piano improvs in the studio last night, and at least two of those pieces say things, on playback, that I can't put into words, unless perhaps with the layered density of a haiku. Even then, there would be layers left out, and although I would compress as much nuance and subtlety into the poem as is humanly possible, it would still need to be completed, as haiku are, by the reader filling in the rest from his or her own experience. We touch at points of shared experience, but we also diverge where there are none.

The battle then becomes to wrest words into better expressing and evoking what one does experiece, as a human artist making human art, so that whatever can be conveyed, failings and all, is. We just know that there are some things we have to really struggle to say.

But it's also true: most poets do say it better than they think they do.

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