“to keep green the memory of what on earth is loved”

June 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Undamaged experience is produced only in memory, far beyond immediacy, and through memory aging and death seem to be overcome in the aesthetic image, which we shall designate ecstasy. Yet memory also produces the most intense pain. Every time one’s tempted to think one’s finally learning to forget, one forgets to remember, and the whole terrible cycle starts up again. Forgetting, we remember, compounds get with for — a prefix corresponding to Greek peri or para, Sanskrit pari, para, signaling away, off, thus rejection, distancing, exclusion, prohibition, destruction, exhaustion, and so forming verbs from verbs with the sense of abstain, neglect, renounce: as forbear, forego, forgive, forget, forsake, forswear. And in the base of forgetting, that which is being abstained from, neglected, renounced, is getting, Anglo Saxon gitan, cognate with Latin hendere, from Greek khandanein. So the root relates us to apprehend, comprehend, reprehend; apprise, comprise, enterprise, surprise; and along the way we pass through Latin praeda, booty; praedium, estate; praedari, seize as plunder, pillage; praedator, plunderer; arriving inevitably at praehendere, lay hold of: thus mapping the linguistic family tree of predation. To get is to grasp, to acquire as result of effort or contrivance, seize, procure, seek out and take, come into possession of, win, gain, succeed in having, understand. It wasn’t worth the trouble, the blood, the sweat, the tears: wrong, wrong from the start. Small wonder one attempts by sublation and erasure to reverse all this before it’s too late, very much in vain alas, too much wearying getting and spending of memory relentlessly goes on, yet at length one dozes off, and then at last one can dream — the river of forgetfulness flows through that sweet ungrasping dream. Still the memorial function of poetry — to keep green the memory of what on earth is loved — denies this dream to poets, in the end, even old, exhausted, demented ones. So let’s get out of bed, get some clothes on, get our shit together, get our heads straight, get up some steam, and get on with the show.

Tom Clark

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