Meditation and Poetics – (Phanopoeia, Logopoeia and Melopoeia)

“Then nightly sings the staring owl/Tu-whoo!/Tu-whit! tu whoo!”  (William Shakespeare)

AG: Okay. I don’t know if we’ve gone through this, but Ezra Pound had three characteristics, or three marks of poetry. He said one was – what I’ve been talking about here – the phanopoeia– P-H-A-N-O-P…how do you spell “poeia” – P-O-E-A? dipthong? – P-O-E-I-A. Thank you. phanopoeia– “the casting of images on the mind’s eye”, the casting of clear, precise images on the mind’s eye. I think his example is a line of Catullus about a crimson curtain blown in the window (to indicate the breeze), or a crimson curtain

tape continues ….  

(then) logopoeia..(“the dance of the intellect) among words”. That is, the abstract… wittiness, the wittiness of the abstraction like his (Walt Whitman’s) use of the connoisseur there – (“ The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut eyes bent sideways”) – his connoisseurship of the connoisseur (because you’ve also got phanopoeia– he’s leaning to the side and his eyes are half-closed – you’ve got the phanopoeia, but you also have a sort of curious European witty mind when he says, “The connoisseur passes through [Editorial note – “peers along”] the gallery”

Peter Orlovsky: The dance of what?

AG : The dance of intellect among words, “The dance of the intellect among words.”….

(William Carlos) Williams, oddly enough is a great example of logopoeia, From the point of view that his intelligence in language was in (the) choice of the ordinary language spoken about him instead of the hand-me-down poetic language, so his version of logopoeia was novel, fresh, invented, made new, but it was true logopoeia in the sense that it was attention to the usage of language in the mouth (like when he says to the postman, “Whyn’t you bring me a letter with some money in it? I could use some of that. Attaboy, attaboy.”  There’s a little melopoeia – (“Attaboy, attaboy”), I always thought was parallel with (William) Shakespeare saying “Tu-whit! tu-whoo!”, or “With hey!, with hey!, the thrush and the jay< “Tirra-lyra sings the lark” (“The lark that tirra-lyra chants”) – the little onomatopoeic lyric refrains – “Hey nonny-no, “Attaboy, attaboy” (so that was (William Carlos) Williams’ conscious substitute for “Hey nonny, hey nonny-no” – “Attaboy, attaboy” – so you’d have to call that wit.

Oh, another example of logopoeia – sure. He’s writing about… I don’t have the Shakespeare here –“Tu-whit! tu-whoo!”. Remember that? – “Tu-whit! tu-whoo!”? – What was that poem from? I think it’s the same – “(When) Dick the shepherd blows his nail…(G)reasy Joan doth keel the pot..,(and) then the owl doth sing a merry note”.

Student; “While greasy Joan doth keel the pot”
AG: Yeah, but how goes it go? If I can (get) the whole structure – “When icicles hang by the wall/And Dick the shepherd blows his nail..and Mary’s nose is red and raw (And Marion’s nose looks red and raw)..And milk comes frozen home in pail..Then nightly sings the..
Student: The staring owl
AG: The what?
Student: “Then nightly sings the staring owl”
AG: “..staring owl/Tu-whoo!/Tu-whit! tu whoo!..”
Student: “..a merry note”.

AG: “A merry note/ And greasy Joan doth grease the pot”

Student: “..keel the pot”
AG: “..keel the pot”. Okay. “The staring owl doth sing..” What was that again?

Student; “Tu-whit! tu-whoo!”
AG: Yea, okay. Now that is that? The pun is “To wit” – Okay, let’s get the line before “Tu-whit! tu-whoo!”. You had it..
Student: “Tu-whit! tu-whoo! A merry note!”
AG: Okay, “Tu-whit! tu-whoo! A merry note!”/ While night does the staring owl..
Student: “Nightly sings the staring owl” is that it?
AG: “(Then) nightly sings the staring owl..”/…’ Tu-whit! tu-whoo! A merry note!” – Right?
Student: yeah
AG: Okay. “(Then) nightly sings the staring owl. “to wit” (i.e. as an example, “to wit” – do you know that phrase? – “to wit” (in legalese) – “to wit”. This is what he sings – “To whoo!” (to woo) – “Tu-whit! tu-whoo! – So it’s a pun on its own making, but also as a further pun – in this winter night, what do you do? – You woo. That’s why it’s a merry note – To wit, to woo (to make love. woo, make love). So are you following what I’m saying? Is there anybody that thinks this is gibberish. Do you understand, Helen (sic)?
Student: Um-hum

AG: It was obvious from the beginning. Is there anybody that doesn’t hear the pun that’s going on there?, the logopoeic pun? The owl is singing a note at night in the winter, and what does he sing? – “Tu-whit”, he sings, “tu-whoo”, meaning “i.e,” or “this following”. And what follows? – the instruction “to make love”, “To wit, to woo” (sic). So that’s logopoeia, maybe, at it’s purest, followed by “a merry note”. It’s also, obviously, onomatopoeic to the owl sound. What’s weird is he says it’s “a merry note” (owls aren’t generally thought of as being merry, merry noted, but the particular message that Shakespeare has embedded in this pun is quite merry, and he’s pointing it out – it’s “a merry note”) – And who are you gonna fuck – “(G)reasy Joan”, probably (“(G)reasy Joan doth keel the pot”), or who’s she gonna fuck? – the suggestions are “Dick the shepherd”, probably (no, “Dick the shepherd” and “Marion” are the couple).

So we have phanopoeia, logopoeia, melopoeia. In (Ezra) Pound’s ABC of Reading, you’ll find an exposition of that, or in the“How To Read” essay that I recommended before. And it’s one of the best clarifications I’ve found for pointing out attention to certain areas, or for teaching maybe, for pointing out certain areas of writing possibility. Or, if you want it simpler, it’s the picture, music, and wittiness, say. Picture, music, and intelligence. There’s a picture, (and) there’s music, and there’s intelligence.

[Audio for the above may be heard here, starting at beginning (in media res, the opening minute) …then, from approximately nine-and-a-half to approximately fourteen-and-a-half minutes in]

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