Sense and Nonsense
18 August 2021
Iterative Thematic Unity
Iterative thematic imagery is complicated term, used by academics, for a literary device that is really very simple. When the same or similar images are used again and again in a text this is repetition or reiteration, hence iterative. When they are bound thematically or within the associative fields already present in the poetry, then the repetition is said to be thematic. A work’s unity may be found within the three classical unities of time, space, and action, or it may be found within the imagery that links and unites. It seems complex, but it isn’t really.
“Now you are a river flowing silver beneath the moon. High tide in the salt marsh: your body fills with shadow and light. I dip my hands in dappled water.” The key images fall into two categories, (1) water: river / high tide / salt marsh / water and (2) light: silver / moon / shadow and light / dappled. Now the sense of the words becomes clear. You / your body is likened to a river seen in the moonlight. It can be touched: I dip my hands. This adds an extra sensory dimension and the depth of the images is apparent. And no, it is not a simple message, but it can be decoded and enjoyed because now you can make it yours.
Sense and Nonsense
When we talk poetry, what do we mean by sense and nonsense? Let us begin with automatic writing. Automatic writing is nonsense. Put your pen on the paper, do not let it off, write for five minutes, whatever comes into your head. The Surrealists published these thoughts, however distraught and distracted as meaningful poetry. Major poets (Lorca, Paz) have used these techniques to engender metaphors and images. However, they have searched among their subconscious thoughts and have rejected the dross to choose the genuine images that enlighten the inner world.
Sense or nonsense? “Eye of the peacock, / can you touch what I see / when my eyelids close for the night?” Key images: eye > see > eyelids > and these are linked to the eyes of the peacock, as displayed on his feathers, and this links to the ancient tale of the Argos and the Argonauts, and to the person who closes his eyes to sleep for the night, and the sense that we can touch (tactile) when we dream (visual), a mixing of the senses. The straightforward logic of the nightly news? Definitely not. But the logic of the subconscious world, of the dream world as defined by Carl Jung? Definitely. These words contain internal meanings that are different for each one of us. Logical meaning? Definitely not. Internal sensation that may generate ease or unease? Definitely. Sense or nonsense? That will depend upon the readers and how they react not in their logical minds but in that deep-seated region of subconsciousness where all imagery is related to what Carl Jung calls the racial subconscious.
Are there words or ideas here that you do not understand? Names and theories that you do not know? Literature in general and poetry in particular take you to places where you have never been and to places that you might never have thought of visiting. However, these are lands that will open their delights before you, if you deign to open up heart, mind, and eyes, and venture out to explore them. Use your dictionary, your thesaurus, your google search tool, and expand your verbal and linguistic horizons. Poetry is not an advert. It doesn’t sell you anything. But it can and does open new worlds and it encourages you to explore old worlds set within you. It will not persuade, cajole, and limit your mind and your choice, rather it will embolden you and help to open new horizons.