Saturday, June 10, 2006

Reading. Brodsky. (much of this was written while waiting in line at the Seattle International Film Festival).

Brodsky was another poet who I encountered in Milosz's ABC's. He is mentioned as having resigned from the Academy of Arts and Letters in protest when Evgeny Evtushenko was elected. Doubtless there is a story behind this episode, which I have yet to discover. Somehow I had never read anything by Brodsky; he had always slipped by my field of vision. Somehow someday became right now.

"Do you know Venice?" "No." "It's a lagoon!" (I don't know where I read this, but it has always made me laugh, as do all cities built on swamps, suspended over water, slowly sinking into the water which is always waiting to reclaim what never was meant to exist on its surface. The only thing that makes less sense than to build a city on water is to build a city in the middle of a desert).

I came across Watermark last night. For some reason, I always discover the non-poetry works of a poet before moving onto the poetry. I haven't yet figured out why. Brodsky writes about Venice, which I have never visited, the city whose name conjures in my mind images of darkly Gothic palazzos, elaborate cathedrals, piazzas of ancient stone, an intricate labryinth of canals. I brought up the notion of labryinths last night, and immediately I once again run into the story of Ariadne and the Minotaur, as he thinks of his only friend in Venice, a glamorous Veneziana, as his Ariadne, who leads him into the depths of the maze of the city and deposits him in a penzione, leaving him with only the faint memory of her perfume. The image of a labryinth in Watermark seems two-fold - that of the physical manifestation of the city itself and the maze of memories Brodsky recounts in his book. For the mind is like maze of memories, each turn you take leading you away from one thing and towards another, memory itself Ariadne's thread unwinding, leading you down the endless paths, turning every which way...

There is some delicious irony, evidence of the myriad machinations of fate, in that I come across the story of the Minotaur twice in two days - in Pelevin's post-millenial reinterpration The Helmet of Horror, which I discussed last night, and in Brodsky's refrain throughout his book, when I have not thought of this myth in years. It had lay dormant in my mind for so long, and then suddenly, this mythical creature was everywhere I looked.

Which brings me to the realization that literature is my labryinth, this blog is my labryinth, within which I turn into different paths that lead me in all directions. (Am I Ariadne, Theseus, or the Minotaur? Maiden, hero, monster?). There is no beginning and no end, only eternal possibilities of discovery. Past-present-future intertwined in an endless maze. You can allow yourself to become hopelessly lost, confused, ensnared in the tentacles of memory and forgetting, or you can let go and allow yourself to rediscover past memories or find new ones. Everything is connected, without logic, without order; the journey simply happens. It was chance (or was it?) that led me to Milosz, who lead me to Levertov and Brodsky, who in turn will lead me onto further paths; it was fate that I chose Brodsky and Pelevin on the same night, that they would both invoke the memory of the Minotaur. This is one of the things I love most about literature, these twists, this happenstance.

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