BOUQUET / JOHN Olson

Bouquet

Bouquet I say: a flower! And, out of the oblivion where my voice casts every contour, insofar as it is something other than the known bloom, there arises, musically, the very idea in its mellowness; in other words, what is absent from every bouquet.

—Stephane Mallarmé

What is poetry? It’s a thing of vision, tenable clean and wild. It’s engaged splatter. It’s the grace and mesh of infinity. It’s a swollen frog and a character in my personal drama.

It’s the ground in the breath around an ear, the sound of a cloud twisting in the mouth of a thermometer, an Orphic Explanation of the Earth, and is not so much the Great Work intended to summarize the universe — a microcosm where everything would hold — but the hollow of this totality, its reverse, its realized absence, that is to say the power to express everything, and consequently nothing, the presence of a power which is itself subtracted from everything and is expressed by nothing. It’s a pause at the intersection of existence and nothingness, the affirmation of an enigmatic force, a parole for the slobber of the heart.

Language is steeped in contradiction. It destroys the world in order to create it. The poem becomes a thing, a body, an incarnated power. It gives real presence and material affirmation to language while simultaneously suspending and dismissing it from the world. The density of its sounds is necessary to release the silence that it encloses and which is an expression of nothingness, a void without which it couldn’t be created. Presence is nothing without absence, and vice versa: the perfect crime on an island at night.

When the poet declares: “I imagine, by an ineradicable and doubtless condition of writing that nothing will remain without being uttered,” one could judge this claim as being hopelessly naïve. The contradiction at the heart of this project is harsh, it tortures all poetic language, and speculation, which is the daughter of sunlight, and awakens the mouth like coffee. Tree branches spreading space as they spread into space. The stillness in a silver tray. The candle holder encased in wax drippings. The pure silence at the heart of a stone. The scraping of dishes, the lift of the fog, the breaking of sediment in the Badlands with its contrary streaks and hints of bone.

Contradiction is harsh, it tortures all poetic language, as it tormented Mallarme’s speculations. Contradiction pushes the poet to seek a direct correspondence between the words and what they mean, to regret the lightness of energy in the word ‘swarm’ and the dark wilderness in the word Mississippi, as if the words, far from distracting us from things, cause the sensuality of language to rise into weight and color and cougars and pumice while simultaneously parodying the foolish clamor with the void at the very core of their endeavor.

So what we have is a bouquet of words. Burst body wax. A place where to moan is to smash the moonlight into stools. Raw was burning in flannel shades of light when the sapphire happened to the magnet broom and it became a motorbike. Remember Capernaum when it was abandoned? It’s like that. Comb your quintessential fire, my friend. The sinking had a claw. The fact was an embalmer. And the melee of a winter moment caused my neck to erupt into ink. And thought. And blue skullcap consummating a phantom bouquet.

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