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3/25/10 / Chorus

Kundera on poets and poetry in Life is Elsewhere

Poetry is a domain in which all assertions become true. Yesterday the poet said: “Life is as useless as tears,” today he says: “Life is as joyous as laughter,” and he is right both times. Today he says” “Everything ends and gives way to silence,” and tomorrow he will say: “Nothing ends and everything eternally resounds,” and both are true. The poet has no need to prove anything; the only proof lies in the intensity of his emotion (emphasis mine).

The genius of lyricism is the genius of inexperience. The poet knows little about the world, but the words that burst forth from him form beautiful patterns that are as definitive as crystal; the poet is immature, yet his verse has the finality of a prophecy by which he himeslf is dumbfounded.

We can laugh at the poet’s immaturity, but we must also marvel at it: in his words there is a droplet that has come from the heart and gives his verse the radiance of beauty. But this droplet has no need for a real experience to draw it out of the poet’s heart, and it seems to me rather that the poet himself sometimes squeezes his heart like a cook squeezing a lemon over the salad. To tell the truth, Jaromil didn’t much care about the striking workers in Marseilles, but when he wrote a poem about the love he bore them, he was truly moved, and he generously sprayed that emotion over his words, which thus became a flesh-and-blood reality.

-Milan Kundera’s Life is Elsewhere, Pg. 287-288

An obsessive desire for admiration is not only a weakness added on to a lyric poet’s talent (as it might be regarded in, for example, a mathematician or an architect) but is also part of the very essence of poetic talent, it is the distinctive mark of a lyric poet: for the poet is the one who offers the world his self-portrait in the hope that his face, projected on teh screen of his poems, will be loved and worshipped.

-Pg. 289

Isn’t the victorious revolution’s love for rhyme merely a chance infatuation? Rhyme and rhythm possess magical power: the formless world enclosed in regular verse all at once becomes limpid, orderly, clear, and beautiful. If in a poem the word “death” is in the same spot as the sound “breath” echoing in the preceding line, death becomes a melodious element of order. And even if the poem is protesting against death, death is automatically justified, at least as the theme of a beautiful protest. Bones, roses, coffins, wounds – everything in a poem changes into a ballet, and the poet and the reader are the dancers in this ballet. The dancers, of course, cannot disagree with the dance. By means of a poem, man achieves his agreement with being, and rhyme and rhythm are the most violent way to gain agreement. Doesn’t a revolution that has just triumphed need a violent affirmation of the new order, adn therefore poetry filled with rhyme?

-Pg. 261


I was just thinking how the word “Analytics” has forever been tarnished in my mind, thanks to a certain douchebag I worked with at a certain company for a little while. In his thick Indian accent he decided to one day declare that he would like our department to progress such that we’re only doing analytics and none of the daily grind stuff we were stuck doing for a long time. He spoke from behind and to the left of me, and that thick annunciation of the “t” sound in “analytics” has remained with me ever since that day.

Video of Lila

Lila’s fifteen seconds of fame evidently came before mine. Her moment starts at the 26-second mark:

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