19 January 2008

Laura Riding (via Susan M. Schultz)

[from Susan M. Schultz's A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, 2005]

In response to such misinterpretations, Riding attempts to create a wedge between the poem and its interpreters. As she writes in Anarchism Is Not Enough (1928), "Poetry is . . . not concentrated on an audience but on itself." The poem, like a woman, is; it cannot be changed by its interpreter. This is the truth of the matter, for a poet obsessed with capital-T Truth. As we shall see, however, this wedge also creates the option -- or necessity -- of Riding's conceiving of silence as better than language. Silence, at least, cannot be so easily interpreted. In "Being a Woman," Riding describes woman as being like the moon, which though it has been interpreted by men, refuses to become that interpretation: "woman does not become what man variously 'makes' of her. So when a certain imaginative interpretation is put upon the moon's movements and prevails as a convention by which conveniently to describe the moon, the moon and its movements do not adapt itself to the interpretation; a new lunar manifestation would change the interpretation, but no new idea about the moon changes the moon."

A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (Modern & Contemporary Poetics)

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